If you have kids and have decided to get a divorce, you are no doubt concerned about how the divorce will affect them. The truth is that most kids can learn to process a divorce in a healthy way, as long as they are given the basic tools to do so.
Here are five tips on how to tell your children about your divorce:
1. Make a communication plan.
If possible, both parents should be involved in deciding how, when and what to tell the children about the divorce. Try to present a united front, if you can.
Choose a place and time that lend themselves to discussion. Pick somewhere the kids are comfortable, not a public place.
Break the news in an age-appropriate way. Think “less is more” for smaller children. Be ready to answer direct questions from older kids.
2. Reassure them that you love them and that divorce won’t change that.
Let your kids know that divorce does not fundamentally change anything about their relationship with you. It does not mean that they will lose you. You will still spend plenty of quality time with them.
3. Explain that they are not responsible for the divorce.
Many kids, especially younger ones, feel responsible for a parental break-up. Sometimes, they may wildly speculate about what they have done wrong.
Try to nip that in the bud. Make clear that there is nothing the kids can do to prevent the divorce and that they are not to blame in any way.
4. Encourage your kids to open up.
Divorce can be a hard topic to talk about, and it may take some time for your kids to fully formulate their questions. Give them a chance to think deeply and be honest with you. Answer their questions as honestly as you can without blaming the other parent.
Be sure to listen carefully and look for any hidden messages that could indicate a need for professional support. If your kids seem unduly upset, consider bringing in a mental health professional to support them.
5. Keep your kids out of the conflict zone.
Do not involve your children in your break-up. Do not share information with them that will make the other parent look bad. Do not bring them to meetings with lawyers, to mediation or conciliation, or to court.
It can be hard to balance being honest with your kids and keeping them out of the conflict zone. Remember that you are the grown up and that involving your kids in the conflict will only hurt them. Do your best to keep them out of the conflict even if your ex won’t reciprocate.