Telling your children about your divorce is an important and emotional event. Your children will look back on this conversation over the years so it is a good idea to prepare and plan ahead for the conversation. Parents may choose to enlist the help of a therapist or counselor to coach them about how best to tell their children about the divorce or to facilitate that discussion in their office.
Below are some simple and effective rules that you should follow that will help alleviate some of the pressure of this all-important conversation.
Do not tell your kids you are getting a divorce until you are absolutely certain that this decision is final. Too often parents separate but then get back together and this leads to confusion and emotional upheaval for children.
It is best to have the divorce conversation when both parents are present. It is recommended that you tell children in a comfortable place. Timing is everything. It seems obvious, but don’t tell your children you are getting a divorce on their birthday or the day before school starts. They need time to process this news.
Do not “over share.” In some of the best divorces, the children are largely unaware why the parents have divorced. Remember children do not want to have to choose sides. Don’t play the blame game. It is unhealthy for children to believe that there is one person to blame for the divorce. Someday a child may gain a full understanding of the situation that triggered their parents’ divorce, but hopefully they will be at an age that they can process this information appropriately.
Make sure the children hear loud and clear that they are not to blame for the divorce. For their own well-being, they need to know that they did not cause their parents to divorce.
Comfort your child. Do not encourage them to comfort you. Reassure your children that they do not have to worry about their parents and that their lives will change as little as possible. Children want to know how this divorce will affect them. It seems selfish, but the healthiest children will really want to know how it is going to change their lives on a day to day basis. Give them as many details that you know (where they will live, if they have to change schools, who will keep the dog, etc.). Do not promise them things that you can’t deliver. Be honest, and, if you do not know an answer to the question, tell the truth. It is okay not to have all the answers.
Stay Calm. If you are out of control, they will feel out of control. If you are anxious, they will be anxious. It is okay to grieve and be sad. It is okay to cry but stay in control of your feelings. Kids feel what you are feeling. Depending on the dynamics of your family, staying calm can be very hard, but try to keep in mind that this conversation is for the children, not you.