Communicating Life Changes to Children

Dear Dr. Jann: Before our divorce, my children attended private school. My children are doing well in school and have made wonderful friends. How do we tell them that we can no longer afford this school?

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 Dr. Jann says: When parents divorce and chaos hit home, the continuity of school may be a child’s saving grace. They don’t know what to expect from mom and dad, but they do know, “I wake up at 7 a.m., get dressed, eat breakfast and go to school. I play with my friends for an hour after school, go home and then my life turns upside down.” Life becomes predictable again at 7 a.m. the next morning.

Unfortunately, a change in school is often the fall-out after divorce. Before you say anything to the kids, check into scholarships or grants that can supplement tuition. There are often funds available for situations like this.

If not, be honest with your kids, but be tactful. How you present things can make all the difference in your child’s outlook on life and their ability to feel safe and secure.

“It’s not in the budget right now,” presents that things are under control. You have a plan. You are looking out for them, but changes have to be made.

  “Now that daddy left us, there’s just no money for your school,” will leave them floundering and afraid. It may be true, but it implies you can’t take care of them and daddy deserted them. Bad mouthing and blame undermines their security. Don’t do it.

 Always let your children know that you are taking care of them and they have nothing to worry about. If a change in school is in the cards, do your best to prepare them by bringing them to the school prior to their attending class. Introduce them to their teacher, let them see their new classroom, and look into fun extra-curricular activities in which they can get involved.


About Jann Blackstone

Jann BlackstoneDr. Jann Blackstone specializes in divorce, child custody, co-parenting, and stepfamily mediation and is often called the “Relationship Expert for Today’s Relationships” because of her “real life, down-to-earth” approach to relationship problem solving. She is the author of six books on divorce and parenting, the most popular, the Ex-etiquette series featuring Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation. She is also the author of the Ex-etiquette syndicated column and a frequent guest or consultant on television and radio talk shows, including Good Morning America (ABC), The Today Show (NBC), Keeping Kids Healthy (PBS), the Early Show (CBS), and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has been the featured expert in many magazines, including, Child, Parents, Parenting, Newsweek, Family Circle, More, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, BRIDES, Woman’s Day, and Working Mother Magazine.

In 1999, Dr. Jann founded and became the first Director of Bonus Families®, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization working to change the way society views stepfamilies by supplying up-to-date co-parenting information via its Web site, counseling, mediation, and a worldwide support group network. They prefer to use the word “bonus” to the word step. Step implies negative things; however, a “bonus” is a reward for a job well done. “Bonus…a step in the right direction.”