Telling your kids about your pending divorce could be up there with one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have to have. Even if you’ve been separated for a while and the announcement isn’t a huge surprise, it’s only natural for children to want their parents and family to stay together.
It’s a conversation your children will remember for the rest of their lives and there’s no perfect way to break the news. However, these tips can alleviate some of the sting.
Make it a family matter
Addressing the entire family then following up with each child separately is the best way to have this conversation according to experts. However, if you’re concerned that your older child may take the news hard, or that their reaction will upset a younger sibling, then you may want to speak to each child separately. After all, a child school age or above understands the concept of divorce more than a toddler!
Explain the situation to your children together, even if the divorce wasn’t a joint decision. Try to incorporate the word “we” as much as possible when explaining why the decision to separate. Telling your children about this change isn’t a time for accusations or bitterness, it’s about you caring and looking after your children’s emotional well being. Kids look up to their parents, so it’s important to show that you can still work together as a team to guide them.
Plan it out
This is the last conversation you’re going to want to improvise. Plan out key messages which you think are important for your kids to hear and take turns covering each point. Do some research about the divorce process and be ready to explain these steps to your children so they are not taken by surprise. Think of important points such as:
- “We love you and nothing will ever change the fact we’ll always be here for you.”
- “Even though things are changing, we will always be a family.”
- “You’re amazing children. It’s our fault this is happening not yours.”
Expect the unexpected
You may brace yourself for lots of tears and a mountain of questions but be prepared for a mixed bag of reactions. Although your children may be sad, it’s normal for kids first concerns to be how this decision will affect them. You may hear questions about birthdays, a change in schools or even if they can still play for the same football team. It’s also understandable for them to yell, cry and slam their bedroom doors shut. You know your child better than anyone so read their reaction to see if they need space to digest the news, or if they need comforting and a big squeeze.
It takes time for children to process how they feel, so you can expect to have many more intense conversations with them as the divorce proceeds. This initial conversation is really an open door to a whole dialogue of questions between parent and child. Both you and your spouse should be open to any questions from your kids and be ready to respond to their emotional needs. If you’re struggling to answer the questions being presented to you, you can click here for family legal advice.
The most important thing is to be open and honest with your child throughout the divorce process about what you do know and what you don’t know.