5 Tips for Telling Your Children About Your Divorce
Telling your kids about your divorce is a daunting task. Although you know divorce is the right decision for your family, this doesn’t make having that conversation any easier. While telling children about divorce is never easy, below are five tips that may help ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Tip #1: Do it together.
Tell your children together as a family. Go in with a plan – just like most things, it has a lot to do with how you say it, as well as the timing. Make sure it’s clear you are in this together, regardless of whose “fault” it is.
Tip #2: Be open and honest.
Never lie to your children about your divorce. Be as honest and straightforward as you can, while taking into consideration your child’s age and emotional maturity. You don’t need to give an in-depth explanation about why you’re getting divorced, but you could tell your kids that you tried to work things out and you failed, so you made this decision for everyone’s sake. Do your best not to argue in front of them, and don’t blame each other.
Tip #3: Make sure they know they’re loved.
It’s crucial your children know the divorce isn’t their fault. It’s a natural response for some children to feel they did something wrong that made their parents want to split up. It’s also normal for them to feel that if they were “better”, they could’ve prevented the divorce from happening. Regardless, they carry the blame in one way or another. Their job isn’t to carry your guilt; it is to keep on being kids. Reiterate that even though parents can divorce each other, they don’t divorce their kids, and remind your children that you love them and will always be there for them. They need to hear it!
Tip #4: Avoid the blame game.
Don’t attempt to place blame on either parent. It’s very important that your children have a strong relationship with BOTH parents, and trying to pass blame (no matter how upset or hurt you are) could jeopardize that.
Tip #5: Prepare them for changes.
One of the best ways to prepare them is to TALK about it. Describe how your children’s world will change from their point of view. Explain that “Mommy/Daddy will still pick you up from school, but won’t be home to put you to bed.” Your children will want to know how your divorce will affect their day-to-day life. It is OK not to have everything figured out yet. Tell your kids what you can – living arrangements, school/child care, visitation arrangements, transportation, etc. Address what you can, and don’t make promises about the future. Kids need security – the more communication and information they have about how their world will change, the better.
Be prepared for a variety of emotional reactions from your children.
Each child will react differently to the news about divorce. As a parent, you should be prepared for any of these reactions.
Remember, divorce is scary for children. Some kids will be openly sad or angry, while others may deny they have any feelings about it at all. And like a pendulum, all of these emotions can flare at any time, and swing from minute to minute.
There will be good days and bad days. Take one day at a time. Reassure them it will all be okay. After that first conversation about the divorce, keep checking in with your children to see how they’re handling it. Ask them how they are doing with all the changes, how you can support them, and if there’s anything they need from you. As uncomfortable and hard as it may be, you need to be there for your kids. This is the time when they need you the most.