Ideas for Explaining Separation/Divorce to a 3 Year Old Boy

Updated on March 16, 2010
M.P. asks from Highland Park, IL
7 answers

My husband and I are going through a very amicable separation/divorce.
Our intention for this process is that it will take place with the most ease and grace possible.

If you have had a similar experience, please tell me how you discussed your actual separation with such a young child.
My son is mature for his age, however, he is still 3 years and 3 months old.

I will also be moving into another house with my son and a roommate (10-30 minutes away depending on traffic), while my husband will remain in our current house.
We will share joint custody.
My son will also be transferring schools.
(*My son is full day, all year, preschool, montessori student)

Likewise, should my son have some type of a going away at preschool with his classmates and teachers?
I would like for him to have some type of closure and comfort with the change.
His last day will be before spring break begins.

Any suggestions, ideas, or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance!

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answers from Chicago on

It would be nice if he would be able to finish the school year at his current school. Then he will have the summer to adjust to the home and start school fresh in the fall. The changes of both home and school will certainly cause some disruption.

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answers from Detroit on

My sister-in-law just wrote a wonderful book about this exact situation after having gone through her own divorce. I highly recommend it, not just because it is my SIL but it is good. It talks about how Mommy and Daddy will live in diffrent homes but will still be there for you! The book is called Divorced Together For the Sake of the Children. You can order it from her web site or from Amazon and Borders.
Many Blessings, K.

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answers from Honolulu on

My thought was... would the preschool going-away "party" make him feel uncomfortable or not? its not just about "closure" but also, maybe a young child, would not really know how to feel about it... because his parents are getting separated/divorced. And, he would not "know" how to "explain" that to everyone... but that his "Mommy" is moving. But why?
Sure, you are moving, thus he has to move schools I guess. But it is because of the separation/divorce.
And, when people ask "why" you are moving or "why" he is moving schools.... then what? How will that be answered? By you or your child?
Would you also be at that "party?"

There will be a lot of changes for him.... maybe the party might make him feel good/happy, or sad/confused.
So gauge him....

Maybe a good idea might be to create a photo album for him... of his classmates/teacher etc. Take photos and any photos you already have... and the class/teacher can write him a cute note etc.
When my friend and her family moved... that is what the class did for her son. He still treasures it even though its been 2 years ago.

Discuss it with the Teacher as well... because they have tons to do too, before spring break. Does the Teacher already know, he is leaving?
And if you are thinking of having a party for him? It would take planning...

If you are moving only 10 minutes away... does he really need to change schools?

All the best,

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answers from Chicago on

Divorce, switching of schools and switching homes produce a LOT of stress in your child. Be prepared for some acting out, unfortunately. I don't suppose it's possible for you to stay in your home w/ a roommate and have your ex move out? If not, I agree with the other posters that he should finish the school year in his same preschool, especially if you will only live 10 minutes away. Right now, consistency and familiarity will be crucial for getting him through all these changes, even if the separation is amicable. I also agree that having him to go to counseling will definitely help and the therapist can probably help you with your own strategies as well! Best of luck!



answers from Chicago on

Since he is three and you did not indicate if he is emotional or prone to tempter tamtrums I would guess the best thing would be to just explain it like you did here. Despite the fact that he is three is he emotionally attached to anyone at the school? He might need some reassurance about that more than the divorce or dad.



answers from Chicago on

I am sorry that your family is going through this, while it sounds like you and your husband have your son's best interests at heart I do have one question - why is your son switching preschools at this time? If there are just two more months of preschool, why not let him finish the school year off? If it were my child, he would have a lot of problems with so many changes happening at once - new house, roommate, new school. I know it's not always possible, but I would go out of my way to keep one constant in his life. I realize this does not answer your question - a suggestion is to get a professional counselor who works with the entire family through the process.



answers from Chicago on

I have been there. My divorce was final a year ago. My daughter was 16 months old when we separated (but still had to live together) and then was 27 months old when we sold the house and moved. I had her say goodbye to the house and goodbye to her friends next door. We waved when we drove away. As I packed our bags, I had her help. Be careful on this one as I had to remove the dirty diapers before I actually taped up the boxes (no seriously...she packed her dirty diapers.) I mixed some of her stuff into my stuff so she knew it was all going together.
As for schools she stayed in the same school for a while. She was just over 3 when I bought a house in Naperville and we had to move again (so about a year later). She changed schools and she was there for 3 months when we realized it was a bad school and changed her again.
This little girl has been through alot and she is just fine. I always explain to her what is going on and why we are moving. I had her go with me to the new schools before I made a final decision so she felt part of the process.
We bought books as well. I found a good one (mommy and daddy bears divorce) that I read to her and talked to her about. Be careful when looking for books. Make sure you read any book you buy about divorce BEFORE reading to her....front to back...don't skim. I skimmed one and thought it was good. I missed all the stuff about how it isn't your fault and people who fight and people who get remarried. At 2 or 3, I don't want to introduce this.
He may act out and he may not. My daughter is very verbal so we talk all the time. She asks questions about why we are not married and why we got a divorce. These are the hardest conversations that I have ever had but we get through them. Just be honest and ALWAYS support your ex husband in front of your child. Say what you want behind his back but never to the child....and they are always listening.

If you want to talk or ask specifics, I am happy to help. Best of luck to you and just remember that if you love your son both you and him will be OK.

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