How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce
Maybe you tried everything you could to make your marriage work, but the unfortunate reality is that it is not. Sometimes, couples feel as though the only way to create a happier life each partner is to separate and move on with their lives apart. While this may make each spouse more comfortable in the long run, during the short-term, you still have to deal with the day-to-day of going through a divorce. If you have children, this can be even more complicated. You may be wondering how to tell your kids about divorce.
How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce
As scary and disrupting as divorce can be, the fact of the matter is that it is pretty common. According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of married couples in the U.S. divorce, and the rate increases for subsequent marriages. Even if you have not been through a divorce before in your family, the chances are that if you have older children, half of their friends have been through the divorce process in their families. Therefore, older children may be susceptible to rumors or negative stories from their peers regarding the process of divorce.
Each separation is different than others, and people divorce for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, when speaking to your children, make sure to be very clear without giving away too many details. The line of communication between parent and child should remain open throughout the process. Additionally, the age of the child should be considered when having this conversation, so it is best to speak with a child specialist before diving into this complicated conversation.
Here are a few general tips for telling your kids about divorce.
- Do not tell your kids that you will be divorcing until it is really going to happen. Many couples may go back and forth trying to decide if it’s right to separate, and it may be tempting to tell the kids in order to get their reaction early on, but this is a mistake. Children need stability in their lives for proper growth, so any disruption in the family will be a challenge. Therefore, you don’t want to send them on an emotional rollercoaster if you can prevent that from happening. Wait until you are sure to have any conversation.
- Don’t go into details about why the divorce is happening, especially if it paints one of the parents in a particularly bad light. It may make you feel better to tell your child the divorce was a result of the other spouse’s infidelity, but this will not help your child. Keep adult issues between adults, and let your child enjoy their childhood without taking on the burden of the problems of your marriage.
- Have the conversation as a family unit. If you have multiple children, make sure that all of them are present for the talk. The last thing you want to do is put one child against the other if he or she feels that he gets information first or last. Additionally, make sure that both parents are present for the conversation so that the children understand that this is a family decision and that both parents care for them deeply. This will also help keep gossip among parents and children to a minimum if the conversation happens out in the open together as a family.
- Try as much as possible to keep a routine for your family throughout the divorce. This may be difficult if parents begin to live in separate homes, but as much as you can do it, stick to the routines that your children know in order to reassure them that their lives will remain steady, simply with mom and dad living in different locations.
- If possible, connect with a child psychologist or therapist early on in the process to help you and your family emotionally through the separation. By opening up early on, you may be able to help your children move through the divorce and past it without a large amount of emotional damage.
- As with any change in your child’s life, make sure that you are paying close attention to their moods, and any changes in behaviors or school performance. Significant shifts in life circumstances can cause children to act out in different ways. Parents should pay attention to these changes to help their child cope with divorce in a healthy way.
Divorce is never easy on a family, but it’s imperative that you work with an experienced family law attorney who has your best interest in mind throughout the process. Your attorney will work with you on issues related to asset separation and child support, which can be complicated and require someone with legal knowledge. Your lawyer can also be a great source of advice for handling the intricacies of a family separation.
Marriage and Divorce. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/
Heidelberger, E. (2019, February 06). How to gently talk to your kids about divorce. Retrieved from https://www.mother.ly/life/how-to-gently-talk-to-your-kids-about-divorce