Q: My six-year-old daughter is very close to my brother’s family. He and his wife recently announced they are divorcing. How do I explain this to my daughter and help her cope with the changes this will cause?
A: How divorce within the extended family affects children can vary widely. Explain to your daughter that marriages don’t always work out and reassure her that she will still spend time with her cousins. If you will have an ongoing relationship with your sister-in-law, let your daughter know that she will still see her aunt too. Don’t take sides, and be clear that divorce is never the kids’ fault.
Regardless of how you explain it, this news may well stir up worries. Your daughter might think that if it happened in her uncle’s family, it could happen in hers too. You can help by accepting your daughter’s feelings, empathizing and reassuring her. Give her lots of time to digest the news and remain open to further conversations and questions she may have. Prepare your daughter for the likelihood that her cousins might be feeling sad and perhaps angry too, and that they may behave differently and feel more sensitive. Coach her on respecting their privacy and speaking to them about it if they initiate the conversation.
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