Getting divorced when you have children is challenging no matter what age they are. Just like you have probably never dealt with divorce before, discussing something so serious with your children is probably new territory as well. If you are struggling with how to discuss this serious topic with your children, here are some helpful tips.
Make Sure You Are Sure
Telling your children about your divorce is a serious topic, so you definitely do not want to take it lightly. Due to this, it is essential that you do the necessary prep work before talking to them. The very first thing you want to do is be absolutely sure that divorce is the final decision. The last thing you want is for your kids to experience the emotional rollercoaster of thinking their parents are separating, only to take it back a few weeks or months later.
Make sure you and your soon-to-be ex are on the same page before speaking with your children. If possible, it is good to also discuss what you and your children’s other parents are going to say. It is ideal that both parents send the same message to the children about the divorce and the family dynamic. You don’t want one parent making promises that can’t be kept, or setting them up for disappointment.
You know your children best, so try to anticipate what questions they are going to ask. Children ask a variety of questions when they are faced with parents who are separating, and it is important to make it clear to them that no questions are stupid. They might ask about living arrangements, moving to a new school, pets, and more. If you don’t have the answers right away that is okay too, just make sure to reassure them that everything will be okay.
Not all divorces have an amicable ending, but if you can discuss the answers to these questions with your partner beforehand the better. For example, your children may ask who the pet is going to live with, and if you both say yourselves this could lead to disappointment later. Try to have as many of the things that are important to your children like this resolved as possible before telling them. This is much easier said than done, but it is always good to at least try to be prepared.
Tell the Truth
While certain details are best left private, it is important to tell the truth about the situation when telling your kids. A detailed and invasive account of everything your spouse has done wrong is not at all necessary, and they most likely won’t understand all of this. However, your children are still entitled to know the truth about why you are getting divorced. You don’t want to sugarcoat it or make something up that they will figure out wasn’t the truth later on.
Something very simple like “we don’t get along anymore” or “we will be happier as parents who aren’t married” is a good way, to be honest, without confusing anyone. This also keeps them from blaming one parent more than the other.
Remind Them They Are Loved and Not to Blame
Although you may have done nothing to indicate this, it can be very common for children to blame themselves. They may see you fighting over money or even how to set certain rules for you, and then assume that this is the cause of the separation. Make it very clear that you both still love them, even if it seems simple, and that they have done nothing wrong.
Roni Davis is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for a child custody lawyer.