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Dr. Rossi
Dr. Rossi, Licensed Psychotherapist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 4627
Experience:  Certified Hypnotherapist, Parenting Book Author, 13+ years of experience.
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My sister-in-law and her husband are divorcing, a big surprise

Customer Question

My sister-in-law and her husband are divorcing, a big surprise to all of us after 25 years of marriage and three (now teenaged) daughters. My own daughters are 4.5 and 2... their cousins and uncle are coming for a visit tomorrow and I know my eldest will ask where her aunt is. Do we wait until she is older (ie. " Auntie couldn't come today")? If not, how do we explain to our very sensitive 4 year old that her aunt and uncle are getting divorced without her being worried that mommy and daddy will do so, as well? It seems so hard to explain - "they fell out of love" implies that my husband and I could do the same (or could fall out of love with HER); "they weren't happy together" makes happiness seem more important than commitment, honouring our promises and working to make things better. I've looked all over the Web, and all sites talk about how to explain "our" divorce to our kids - not how to address the subject if a child has friends or family members going through it. Thank you!
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Rossi replied 6 years ago.

Good Morning,


Children are focused and live in the present moment. Explaining separation in a language that they can understand, being honest and using examples that they can associate with is helpful.


You would want to stress out to her that moms and dads share different kind of friendship than they do with their own kids (to reassure her that you won't fall out of love with her) Then you could explain to her that sometimes grown ups even when they are mommy and daddy to someone can find another grown up that they would want to be friends with. Stress out to her again that the child is always going to be their child but that they can always if they chose to live with another grown up. If she asks why, you don't necessarily have to say they had fallen out of love (sometimes you won't know exactly why and that is the truth/since many factors lead to that final stage)


You can say that you're not sure and that some reasons are that people at times just decide to make new friends or marry someone else. If she asks you if you and her dad can do that you again explain to her that it is a choice the two grown ups make and it does not happen to everyone.


You can still use the examples you had found online and just make up a child story (for example how two burdies lived together in a nest and took care of the eggs and baby chicks and one day decided to fly to another place) and substitute the information so it applies to her auntie.

Edited by Dr. Rossi on 1/2/2010 at 1:31 PM EST

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