How to "explain" divorce to children

My husband’s parents were in the process of getting a divorce before we met, almost 20 years ago. 6 years ago DH’s father remarried. Before this past Thanksgiving they separated. This has been coming, she has thought about it for at least a couple years, she finally moved out. We don’t blame her, he is a very self-centered person, really shouldn’t be married. They are not divorced, but he has already seen aother person.

My husband and I cannot think of a way to explain the situation to our children, ages 3 and 6. They love Grandpa, and they love the person he married a few years ago, and she adores them and loves them too. We will continue a relationship with her, but now will only see her perhaps once or twice a year due to distance.
He has come a few times recently for a quick visit, and our children ask if she is coming.
We have skirted around it, but we will see him again this week, and I feel it is time to tell our chidlren something so they don’t keep wondering if they will see her.

My husband asked his dad last night what we should tell our girls. Because, it is his behavior and lack of respect that has caused the separation. He just says tell them it didn’t work out.

NO. I do not want our children with an idea that if a marriage doesn’t “work out” oh well. I also don’t want them to always worry what if their spouse doesn’t think it is working, they will just divorce.

The real reason is because of DH’s dad, so how to be honest without damaging their relationship with him?

Thanks for any advice. :confused:

I have no kids, I’m not married, not looking to get married right now (celibacy), but when I was growing up divorce happened twice in my family line somewhere while I was still young. Thankfully it never effected me that much (wasn’t my parents who got divorced), but I still remember slightly how everyone dealt with it in respect to children.

Any fears you have about portraying a negative relationship image to your children should be offset by how you and your husband portray yourselves to them. If they take words to heart, imagine how much they’d take actions! By that I mean you shouldn’t worry too much about the ideas about divorce being put into your childrens head. The main couple they will judge marriage by is likely going to be you and your husband, their parents. So focus more on eliminating any negative relationship attitudes or fears in them by simply being witnesses to them of how great a marriage is, how it needs to work etc. On that note, I don’t think small ‘fighting’ or arguments in front of the children is such a bad thing. I witnessed it from my parents all the time as a kid, it actually helped me identify gender roles and it tattooed in my brain what a relationship is about; sacrifice, compromises, love etc. Even though they fought, they always stood by eachother. That’s one of the best things your kids can and should learn from marriage, and only you can teach them.

If they seem very curious as to why their grandfather isn’t with the same women anymore, hmm, I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t really think lying would be a good option. I guess try to find a polite child-friendly way to describe the process whereby they didn’t want to be with eachother anymore, not out boredom or personal preference, but requirement. Just make sure you don’t end up explaining it to them in a way where divorce sounds like something normal or acceptable. I think it’d be wise to remind them that whatever happens, most of the time divorce is uncommon and undesired!

God Bless.

Are they young enough they would accept “They don’t live together anymore.” ? Or will they ask why?

Aggies08 (I am an Aggie 95), even two years ago my older one asked why we don’t see one of their cousin’s mother. My brother and she divorced before my daughter was born. So we explained then they were not married anymore, and she lived in a different house. She did not understand why they wouldn’t be married anymore, was very put-off by it, and insisted that when she gets married it will be forever. She is also very big into family get togethers and doing things as a family, so this will be very confusing to her as to why a family she has known is now breaking apart.

The tricky part is our children, and us, have relationships with both people, and one is to blame for the separation.

Domiy, thanks for your suggestions. My husband and I will affirm our marriage to each other.

I guess to be more specific, how to phrase the explanation of the separation honestly, age-appropriately, and without tainting their view of either person. Is that possible?

Hello coopnann,
Three may be a bit early but I explained to my 7 and 5 year olds that we, as Catholics know that when two people get married for the first time they are married for life. They are married until one of them dies.

You can then tell them that their mom and dad are married for life and promised to love each other all their lives.

You can then explain that as faithful Catholics we know this is true. But many, many people do not believe it is true. They believe a lie that says that marriage is not for life. This leads to husbands and wives leaving each other and living in different homes.

You can conclude by promising them that you and your husband will never do that because you love Jesus and want ro obey Him.

We must stop being afraid to teach our children the truth on marriage and divorce. Yes, they may say something that will hurt somebody’s feelings. But they must grow up knowing it is the truth even though they will be surrounded by something that is trying to teach them something quite different.

I was quite proud of my now 11 year old daughter when she told me that a lady who professes to be Catholic said that women should be able to have abortions in two special cases. My daughter boldly responded that our Church teaches that it is always wrong. She then asked the lady why those babies in those cases deserved to die. My daughter said the lady didn’t respond. God bless our youth for holding up the truth!
Bryan
LOVE SO AMAZING

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In this ‘grandparent separation’ situation depending upon your Children’s ages and their individual sensitivity, I would be explaining that their Grandparents have separated, after a 20+ year marriage or whatever the years have been, leaving it at that (not elaborating or expanding upon the fact).

Then reassure your Children that with Grandpa separating from Grandma it in no way changes their love to them (your Children) in their futures, and that they will still see their Grandmother on different occasions along with a Family trip or visit to see Grandma in the near future, for instance the next holiday period; something for your Children to look forward to and it reassures them that Grandma is alive, well and loves them.

Mentioning the ‘years together’ factor should reassure your Children that Grandma and Grandpa did indeed enjoy a long marriage and they should not fret about their own Parents ever separating while they are young.

Love and best wishes to you and Family
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"You can then explain that as faithful Catholics we know this is true. But many, many people do not believe it is true. They believe a lie that says that marriage is not for life. This leads to husbands and wives leaving each other and living in different homes.

You can conclude by promising them that you and your husband will never do that because you love Jesus and want ro obey Him" - FC George

The above is just a tad irresponsible and a Lie that you are passing on to other married Parents and to their Children FC George! It may also create a breeding ground for distrust between Parent and Child along with heartbreak in a situation whereby Christian Parents have separated after stating the above to their children regardless of whether it be a year down the track or ten years FC George. One can pray and hope and make their Vow and commitment to God and Jesus and their spouse, however to state “this will never happen to Mummy and Daddy” or “insinuate that separated Catholics believed a lie that says that marriage is not for life and this leads them to separating” is a Lie that you have concocted and are encouraging for Parents to spread judgements in their little innocent minds when young that they will grow up believing about Catholic and Christian parents who have separated for many validated reasons, such as my own FC George, in which a Catholic Priest dictated for me to Divorce immediately after an 18 year Catholic Marriage.

I would leave ‘judgements’ to God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit FC George

You are not God and the statement you have made is completely false, generalised, totally ignorant, arrogant, patronising, degrading, profoundly hurtful to myself (as a separated Catholic Mother), and I imagine many other Catholic parents who have separated after enduring shockingly violent and degrading marriages for many years.

I simply tell the truth in words they can understand but most of all listen to my intuition because i know this is how God guide’s me.

Your child will be expose to a lot of this. I would not say anything unless this is obvious to them because this is a personal affair of this couple. But if it is obvious and your children are wondering. I do my best to bring up my child with the church teaching and she knows what makes God sad and happy.

If i was to tell this to my child, i would say. They no longer live together. Sometime, when we forget to invite God in our life every day, it cans be challenging for human to get along and to have peace. God is probably very sad about their decision but he would be very sad with us also, if we are to judge. I am sure he would be very happy if we pray for them.

Anyway. Don’t say too much. If they have questions just give honest answer but in their language.

What it comes too, which value you want to give to your children. For me, learn to forgive, not to judge, pray for others, listen to God and listen to God through our teachers, parents and priest. (I certainly let her know if anyone ask her anything that isn’t right, TO SAY NO, i give her example …).

What are the values you want to teach to your children and go from there.

Best wishes!

I wouldn’t go too much into detail with this.

You’re marriage is the marriage they see and will learn from. You’re marriage needs to be that example. It sounds like it is that example.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have much upbringing in the faith…I did learn what marriage meant and how important and, above all, permanent it is.

Despite loads of trials and difficulties…my parents have been married for 30 years. On the same page both sets of my grandparents were married until death. One set for 50 and the other for 60 years.
Out of all the lessons I could thank my parents for…the most important thing I learned was how they viewed marriage.

There were other divorces in my family…but no one has re-married.

Teach them that marriage is permanent because God made marriage permanent. Be that example for your children.

I would leave ‘judgements’ to God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit FC George

The above is just a tad irresponsible and a Lie that you are passing on to other married Parents and to their Children FC George!

Hello HolyRosaryChild,
Your judging of my judging is very judgmental. We both know that we are called to judge. We do not condemn, that is God’s to do.
But how are we to help a brother or sister in Christ see the need to repent of sin if we do not make the judgment that an action or behavior is sinful?
Our Blessed Lord, in St. Matthew’s gospel gave us clear instructions on the three steps to help a sinner. It must begin with the judgment that there has been a sin.

As faithful Catholics we must teach our children that a valid marriage between a man and a woman is for life. To claim that it is over is what our catechism calls a “grave offense.”
In the OP’s case, her father-in-law was (is?) married before this “marriage” that he is now divorcing himself from. Was/Is he married to the first woman or the second?? Is/was he somehow never married to either and somehow free to date someone else?

We do not have enough information to know. We do know, however, that God will be the witness between he and the “wife of his youth.” Whoever that is… and God knows… let him not deal treacherously with her.

As for teaching the kids, it is a very good thing to promise (as long as you are in a truly valid first marriage) that you will always choose to love your spouse and that you will always choose to be married to them. These are choices you can make regardless of whether your spouse continues to make them or not. This will give your children confidence that they too can find someone who will honor the marital vows as you did.
Bryan
LOVE SO AMAZING

Ideally marriage is for life, but the Church has acknowledged the real need for legal divorce in some cases. We are not required to remain in abusive, dangerous or unlivable situations. Now, whether we remain married in the eyes of the Church or pursue annulment is another matter, but the reality is that it is very possible to be a legally divorced Catholic in good standing with the Church. To tell a child that a legal divorce is always against God’s law is simply wrong.

OP, tell your kids the truth. Grandpa and Ms. Patty decided that they could not be married any more, because they had grown up problems that they could not fix. It is very sad, but they both love us and we love them. Nothing will change their love for you. Let them ask questions and move on. As they get older, you can be more candid about your father-in-law being disagreeable and his role in pushing his wives away.

Hello Jackiemom,
I am sorry if I gave the impression that CIVIL divorce is always wrong. Our Catechism is very plain that there are times when it can be “tolerated” and is not a “moral offense.” There are times when gravely and dangerously abusive situations occur and our Catechism says that if civil divorce “remains the only possible way” of providing the necessary protections then it "can be tolerated " and does not constitute a “moral offense.”

Also the vast majority of civil divorces are unilateral. One spouse wants the divorce and one doesn’t. The one who has the civil divorce forced on them is not guilty of civil divorce (they may be guilty of other sins).

But… teaching our kids the true definition of divorce is very important. We can look to the glossary of our Catechism to find it.

Divorce is the CLAIM that the indissoluble bond of a valid marriage between a man and woman has been broken.

Divorce is a “grave offense.” For marriage is a great good and God joins two into one flesh.

By claiming in my heart that I am no longer married to the one to whom God joined me I commit a “grave offense.”

I apologize Jackimom, I should have been more careful with my explanation. I certainly would not tell my children (and haven’t told my 11 and 7 year olds) that anyone who is civilly divorced is committing a grave sin.
Bryan
LOVE SO AMAZING

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In which, FCGeorge, as in all sins, after asking Our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour’s forgiveness, through our remorse and His most Loving, Divine Mercy, one is forgiven their sins. For one to be informed by others that divorce is the gravest of sins in a generalised way, is not for you, I or any other individual to judge (ie each separation and/or divorce) through the Catholic Church.

There are many other sins that exist, far more hurtful and worse in my opinion, than separation and divorce.

Please bless and bathe this person in Thy Divine Love, peace, discernment and compassion in relation to separation and divorce matters, please Dear Jesus Christ our Saviour now and for Eternity, Amen.

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I sincerely apologise for labelling you as arrogant and ignorant FCGeorge, it was an emotional outburst in which you suffered wrongly. I have prayed for forgiveness and will pray that you forgive me for this.

Upon reflection, I realise that you would be and would have assisted many many people during your life, in particular through CA which does not make you an arrogant and ignorant Soul and person nor incompassionate.

I wish you the most loving, happy and united marriage for your Wife, Children and Self.

Love and best wishes to you FC George.

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OP, tell your kids the truth. Grandpa and Ms. Patty decided that they could not be married any more, because they had grown up problems that they could not fix. It is very sad, but they both love us and we love them. Nothing will change their love for you. Let them ask questions and move on. As they get older, you can be more candid about your father-in-law being disagreeable and his role in pushing his wives away.

This advise is so very popular in our modern culture (would not have been for the first 1900 years of Christianity) but it subtly spreads a couple of very dangerous lies that are likely causing a plethora of souls to perish.

First, it helps children to grow up believing that when you have marital problems that you start to believe you cannot fix (and the devil certainly tries to get us to believe they are unfixable) then it is okay to simply decide not to be married anymore.

Second, it gives children the impression that we, ourselves, can decide when we are no longer married. We have no power to do this. God joins us and we have no power… a judge has no power… to unjoin us. That CLAIM is divorce. That claim is a “grave offense.”

The other thing is that this advise gives the impression that we can have multiple spouses while our “first” spouse lives. If our "first"spouse was truly a spouse in God’s eyes then they are still a spouse until death. The "“second spouse” is therefore what our Blessed Lord called an “adulterer” and we are involved in what St. Augustine called an “adulterous remarriage.”

Our Catechism calls divorce a “plague.” I am convinced it is allowed to be a plague because we are unwilling to believe these truths and clearly teach them to our children.

Please, I pray, do not see this as trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. I just hope to shine a light on the darkness in which these lies from the father of all lies are hiding. For the sake of the defense of marriage and the salvation of souls.

Bryan
LOVE SO AMAZING

:thumbsup: Great post, and a great way to explain a complicated situation to young children!

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As faithful Catholics we must teach our children that a valid marriage between a man and a woman is for life. To claim that it is over is what our catechism calls a “grave offense.” FCGeorge

My Ex-Husband spruiked all of the wording and condemnation you have in your previous postings regarding Divorce and people divorcing who are Catholics; despite (a) not believing in God and Jesus himself yet being raised and educated as a Catholic and having read the Bible (to issue quote after quote from the Bible (deliberately omitting the Readings from Jesus and His Apostles that stated various ‘validated’ exemptions and justification for separations and divorces) FCGeorge.

Would you like me to post these for you this evening to refresh your Theologian knowledge and wisdom?

All sins are ‘grave offences’ FC George regardless of whether it be a separation or divorce.

The most sinful is a spouse who dictates and forces their wishes on another spouse using religion and the Bible as their weapon to retain control over their spouse despite abuse degradation and violence.

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and FCGeorge…It was a Priest and religious counselling Clergy that ‘insisted’ and ‘dictated’ to separate and divorce immediately for the safety and lives of myself and Children.

How does that fit into your ‘grave offence’ box FC George? There are millions of Catholics marriages and other Christian denominational marriages I pray for around the World, in particular, those marriages whereby a Wife or Husband are married to Mysoginists and Narcissists who use The Bible (Jesus’ Scriptures) in relation to separation and divorce, bluffing or attempting to bluff their Spouse and Children into not separating from themselves while they deliver violence, shocking degradation and abuse not only to their Spouse but move on to deliver it all to their children, some of whom commit suicide later.

Allow God and Jesus to Judge for Jesus is the only Man able to Judge His Children and Marriages.

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Matthew 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

“except for marital unfaithfulness” in which, FCGeorge, includes every type of ‘unfaithfulness’ written in Jesus’ Commandments and Scriptures, not precluding the sins of sexual infidelity, whether it be pornographic, physical, lusting after other people, violence (most important sin of unfaithfulness), abuse, degradation and not “loving one another until death do us part” is part of “unfaithfulness”. Sexual infidelity is only part of the ‘unfaithfulness’ within Catholic Marriage Vows. “loving one another in sickness and in health” includes respecting and treating one another well. Being "unfaithful in marriage, according to Catholic Vows made to one another, should never exempt unfaithfulness of all Catholic Vows made on the day one is married, united by God, The Holy Spirit and Jesus.

The term ‘unfaithfulness’ stated by Jesus encompasses, to myself, as a Catholic and Christian, all of our Christian Marriage Vows and not based upon one term ‘infidelity’ or interpreted as ‘no excuse, this is a grave offence, black and white Commandment, stating no-one shall divorce’.

“Marital unfaithfulness” is the exception and allowed by Jesus in both The Old Testament and the New Testament as grounds for Divorce.

Deuteronomy teachings from Jesus and God include, as you would undoubtedly be aware, similar justification, by God and Jesus, for Divorce between Man and Woman who are united by God in Christian Marriages and ceremonies where there is ‘marital unfaithfulness’.

Matthew 19:29
Bible in Basic English

And everyone who has given up houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or child, or land, for my name, will be given a hundred times as much, and have eternal life.

A modern day interpretation of an example:

Where a Husband and Wife united in a Catholic Marriage by God have realised that one is a non-believer, non-practicing, blasphemes God and Jesus, sends up God and Jesus, is unfaithful within the Marriage, violent, abusive and degrading and the ‘believing/faithful’ Spouse leaves the marriage for God and Jesus’ Callings; further undertaking His/Her Callings (many of them), to the best of His/Her ability, leaving their own wealth, house, lands and family for Him; it is not a grave sin or offence, however one in which, has the ‘believing/faithful Spouse coming closer to God, The Holy Spirit and Jesus; following Jesus’ Scriptures.

Marriage, Separation and Divorce is not a black and white issue/matter FCGeorge; there are dozens of extenuating circumstances in which Jesus, God and The Holy Spirit are Judge and Jury, hence ‘Thou shalt not judge’ including the matter of separations and divorces.

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