Children and Divorce: How Much Truth is Too Much?/ Dr. Mark Banschick

Posted on May 25, 2011


Truth is a great value, but it is not the only value by which we live. When it comes to kids, their health and well-being trumps everything else. We bring them into the world fresh and innocent. Your children were probably born into an intact family. This is what they know – a solid, caring team who loves them.

Much will change with a divorce. A child is no longer able to be with both of their parents at the same time, under the same roof. Their sense of security can be lessened and they must adapt to a new way of life.

Do you really want to tell them the truth? Should they know that their father had an affair and left their mother (and them)? Do you want them to know about their mother’s alcoholism? I’m not so sure.

There is a lot in life that’s private. Kids need to have their innocence. This means that they need not know everything – explicit details are better left unsaid. In my mind, their mental health trumps truth.

This opinion is not always embraced by parents, particularly a parent who feels wronged or defamed. That parent wants the child to carry the same opinion about the other parent that they carry. Here’s something to remember: your children are not you. They are entitled to their own opinions.

So what about the truth? In most cases, it’s best to keep the full truth to yourself because it’s safe to say that the truth hurts. Obviously if a parent is violent, disturbed, or grossly mismanaging a child, their access needs to be limited. That’s what the courts are for.

Children will ultimately come to their own conclusion about their parents. If a parent is a selfish narcissist who is always unavailable, the child will get it. It’s their call whether they have negative opinions about their mother or father, not yours.

At the end of the day, it’s their relationship. And that, my friends, is the truth.

As a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Banschick has been working with children and their parents for over twenty years.  He is the author of The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Your Children (2010) and an online course for divorcing parents. His goal is to make divorce a better experience for children.
Contact Information:
Mark R Banschick, MD
215 Katonah Avenue
Katonah, New York 10536