Relationships Quick Answers
What do toddlers understand about divorce?
A major difference between infants and toddlers is that toddlers can use language to express thoughts and feelings. Even though toddlers are learning to use language, there are many things they don't understand. Toddlers understand that one parent is not living in the home, but they do not understand why. They also do not understand time. For example a toddler may ask, "When is Daddy coming?" and the parent may reply "You will see Daddy on Thursday." The child may ask the same question two hours later, because he doesn't understand how long it is until Thursday. This can be very frustrating for parents because toddlers will often ask the same questions over and over again. It is still important to answer your toddler's questions, but to know that your toddler doesn't really understand even after you explain it. Try to see the world through your child's eyes. Imagine what it is like to be in a confusing place where you often don't understand what is going on and have limited ability to express your thoughts and feelings. For toddlers, the support of an adult who knows them well, understands their thoughts and feelings, and helps them express those thoughts and feelings makes a world of difference.
Source: Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Wednesday, August 20, 2008