Besides breaking the news of their impending separation, parents often give children inadequate explanations when they do talk to them. They do not explain how the marriage has fallen apart, how they are going to survive, or what will happen next. They are especially unlikely to give explanations to younger children. This leaves the children unsure and afraid, just when they most need reassurance and information. They don’t understand the divorce or why it is happening; they may feel unsafe and confused.
Children generally believe that divorce is bad and that it results in enduring emotional problems for them. Some children also believe that it is the child’s fault that the parents divorced. In one study, one-third of the third and fifth-graders who were read vignettes about divorced families thought that the children had caused the divorce — because the parents didn’t want children, or the child did things wrong so the parents got mad and took it out on each other, or the parents couldn’t stand the child so they got a divorce.
According to parents in another study, one-fifth of the children blamed themselves for the divorce. Not surprisingly, then, when children are told that their own parents are getting a divorce, they oppose it strongly.