Telling the kids is often one of the most difficult parts of divorce. While every family has different circumstances, the children’s ages certainly affect how this step is handled. In all cases, it’s important to let the children know that they are safe, and that their needs will be priority in the upcoming months. Here are some key tips for talking to your children about your decision to divorce.
Time It Right
Tell the children once the decision is made, but no more than 2-3 weeks before any major changes will happen. This timing lets them come to terms with the situation without giving them too long to worry about upcoming events. Broach the subject over a weekend or at a time when no one has anywhere to go for several hours after the discussion. They may need some family time after hearing the news — or they may want some alone time (and either is fine).
You should also keep the lines of communication open so your children feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns as you proceed through the divorce process.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
Work as a team: except for the most volatile situations (and cases of abuse), parents should work as a team and strive to present a unified front throughout the entire divorce process. Children of any age should never be privy to details regarding which parent’s actions may have led to the divorce.
Assure your children they didn’t cause the divorce: Be sure to emphasize it was a difficult adult decision made by Mom and Dad after much thought and consideration. You must stress the divorce has absolutely nothing to do with them or anything they did, and there is nothing they can do to change their parents’ minds regarding the decision.
While you may not have exact arrangements finalized yet, tell your children what you know about future plans. Let them know if they’ll be staying in their current house and which parent will be moving out, and where to (if known).
Be sure to emphasize what won’t change in their lives. A divorce can cause havoc in children’s lives, and it’s reassuring to hear that Mom will still meet them at the bus stop every afternoon or that Dad will still take them to swim classes on Sunday afternoons.
If your children have friends whose parents are divorced, ask them what their friends have said about the situation. Perhaps they’ll recall a (relatively) positive anecdote such as having two birthday parties. Discussing other kids they know who are in the same situation can also help them feel less alone during this difficult time — and make them realize that, indeed, life will go on.
Divorce is a difficult circumstance for all parties involved. Compassion for the needs of the children of divorced or divorcing parents is critical during early stages of this life change. If you’re seeking further information or consultation regarding divorce proceedings contact the Vaught Law Firm. We Understand, We Can Help.