How do you handle divorce with your kids? How do you explain it to them?

I have a three year old daughter that is the biggest daddy's girl you will ever meet. She often times will only allow daddy to help her. Our divorce is happening because one partner recently accepted that they are gay. In order to keep stability for the kids he will be finding a new place to live. We don’t know how to do this without causing life long trauma for her.
Asked by Sam

Hello Sam!

Thank you for your message. 

You asked a great question about how to help kids adjust to a divorce.

Divorce is a painful, difficult decision for adults and children alike. Let me say that navigating the emotions and decisions may require you having good support for yourself as you help support your kids.

That being said, you asked about specific tips to help your child(ren) cope with divorce. These tips are helpful for your young daughter as well as for older children. 

Discuss calmly together, as parents, how you will tell your children about the divorce. Include in this discussion that the divorce is not their fault, reassure them you both still love them, and listen to their thoughts and questions. Answer their questions to the point that they are able to understand at their current age/maturity level. Keep the door of communication open to discuss more as they grow and mature.

As your spouse moves to a new home, and visitations begin, work out a pattern of custody that you are both comfortable with and stick with it. Stay involved in your kid's life. You may want to set up video calls with your kids when they're at the other parents house potentially. That's something that you could talk through together and make a decision that feels best for the children.

Commit to working hard to coparent, make decisions regarding care for the kids together and be supportive of the time your child spends with the other parent.  In the same vein, try your best to limit negative things said about the other parent. Keep adult conversations among the adults and do not involve the kids.

Communicate honestly and help your child express their feelings. Your daughter being so young may need help with communicating how she feels about the divorce. You may consider looking into some books about divorce written for her age level. Sometimes a preschool teacher, school counselor, or librarian may be able to help you with book ideas for your child. Consider counseling for the kids if and when it seems they may need extra support. Sometimes kids need to hear the truth from more than one source.

Reassure your children that they will always have both of their parents love and attention and work hard to make that true. Consistency is very important for kids, so while the two of you will live in different houses now somehow your kids need to see that they still have your attention of both of you parents in a consistent way.