The divorce process is a very trying time for divorcing spouses, but the impact of the divorce is even greater for any children involved. Telling your children about the divorce may invoke feels of sadness, anger, and guilt. However, you must remember that this conversation is one that your children will remember. How should divorcing parents approach their children about the changes to come?
Here are five tips for telling your children about the divorce.
1. Time and Place
Think about the time and the place. Avoid holidays or special occasions, such as your child’s birthday when you break the news. The memory of finding out will stick with your child forever. Make sure you give yourself ample time for the meeting. Do not schedule it before school or other activities that may cut the meeting short. Avoid telling your children if you are not absolutely sure you are divorcing.
2. A United Front
Both parents should be present. The message should be clear and simple. Explain the situation, but do not speak about details that could make your children believe that they need to
fix the problem or that they are the cause of the divorce. This is the time to set all anger aside and reassure your children that although their lives are changing, both parents love them.
3. Everyone Should Attend
You may want to speak to your children separately, but research shows that addressing your children all at once is best. This precludes a situation where one child is forced to bear the burden of the secret or a child feels left out of a very important conversation. This is the time to tell all the children that although you and your spouse will no longer be together, you will always be their parents.
4. Have a Plan
This is not the time to ad-lib. Children will often wonder what comes next and you want to demonstrate that you are taking this seriously. Together, prepare some key points in advance of the meeting. At the meeting, take turns going through each point. For example, if one parent is moving out, plan how and when that move will occur before the meeting. At the meeting, you don’t have to share all of the details of the move. You can let them know that they will soon have two homes, and that you have worked out a schedule to make sure they are getting to school, extra-curricular activities, and work.
5. No Assumptions
Do not assume that you know how your children will react. Each child is different and has his or her own way of coping. Keep in mind that this conversation will be the first of many. Your child will need time to process the information. You will want to assure the children that you are available to answer questions and will be as honest as possible with them.
Do not be afraid to ask for professional help before and after talking to your children. Most importantly, keep your children’s best interests at heart. It can be easy to get caught up in the process and in your anger. Be mindful of the impact this will have on your children.