Telling your kids about the divorce
Your children, however, may have absolutely no clue anything has been going on. To them, the idea may be entirely out of left field. An open and honest discussion can help.
Helping your kids cope
Things can get tough and touchy in even the most cooperative of split-ups. Divorce isn’t an easy topic to broach. But your children will appreciate your transparency and understanding of their stake in the situation.
- Bring up the topic a good 2 to 3 weeks before any separation is set to begin. This gives kids some time to process the situation.
- Be sure you have a plan in your mind, even if it’s loose. Your child will probably have a lot of questions about logistics (who’s moving out, where they’re moving, what visitation might look like, etc.), and it’s assuring to them if there’s some framework in place.
- Have the talk in a quiet space that’s free from distraction. You may also want to make sure there are no pressing obligations later on in the day. For example, a weekend day may be best.
- Consider telling your child’s teacher a day or so before you tell your child. This gives the teacher a heads up if your child begins acting out or needs support. Of course, you can also request that the teacher doesn’t mention it to your child unless your child mentions it to them.
- Hone in on certain points, like how you and your partner didn’t come to the decision easily. Instead, you have thought about this for a long while after trying many other ways to make things work better.
- Assure your child that the split isn’t in response to their behavior. Likewise, explain how your little one is free to love each parent fully and equally. Resist casting any blame, even if it seems impossible given the circumstances.
- Be sure to give your child room to feel how they need to feel. You may even want to say something along the lines of, “All feelings are normal feelings. You may feel worried, angry, or even sad, and that’s OK. We’ll work through these feelings together.”
- Encourage your child to talk to you. Explain that you’re a safe place to share any feelings they might be having. Then, most importantly, listen with open ears to anything they have to say.
- Understand that all kids process change differently. What works for one of your kids may not speak to another. Pay attention to any acting out or other cues you see, and pivot your approach accordingly.
- Avoid fights between you and your ex in front of their kids, it has the potential to result in “taking sides” or loyalty to one parent over another.
- Be kind to yourself. Your child needs you to be strong and centered. Still, you’re only human. It’s perfectly fine and even encouraged to show emotions in front of your kids. Showing your own emotions will likely help your children open up about their own as well.
In much of the research on divorce, it’s clear that kids are resilient. The effects of separation tend to be more challenging in the first 1 to 3 years.
Plus, not all kids see negative effects from divorce. Those living in high conflict environments may even see the separation as something positive.
In the end, it goes back to doing what’s right for your family. And families can take on many forms. Try your best to explain to your child that, no matter what, you are still a family — you’re simply changing.
More than anything else, your child wants to know that they have your unconditional love and support regardless of your relationship status.