Dear Dr. Bill,
My husband’s parents have been going through a marriage crisis for the past two years. There was an affair, and the possibility of reconciliation looks grim.
Our question is this — if they go through with the divorce, how do we explain this situation to our kids — ages 8, 7 and 4? Since these grandparents live out-of-state, we only see them every 3-4 months or so. We certainly won’t talk about the affair, but how do we explain that grandpa and grandma won’t be together anymore?
As with any difficult family issue, the best advice is to be honest with your kids, explaining the situation using simple, age-appropriate language.
For example, you might say something like this:
“Grandma and Grandpa have been having a lot of arguments and they have decided that they don’t want to live together anymore. Sometimes that happens to people who are married, and it’s called a ‘divorce.’ It makes God really sad and mommy and daddy are sad about it too.”
Your older children will likely have questions about this, such as “what did they argue about?” or “will they get new houses?” Answer their questions as clearly as you can, but as you mentioned, there is no need to discuss the affair.
However, if one or both of their grandparents end up marrying someone else, you will need to prepare your kids to deal with the realities of that situation.
Things will get more complicated when it comes to visits and holidays, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
Above all, do your best to demonstrate grace in this situation, showing your kids that we still love our family members, even when they do things that we don’t agree with.
Thanks for writing Angela. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Culture Connection page.