Getting Divorced. Now that you have decided to get a divorce, perhaps the biggest question that’s been lingering in your mind is how you’re going to tell your children. After all, not only is ending your marriage a life-altering and emotionally challenging event for you and your spouse, but it will ultimately change your kids’ lives forever. Children are scared, confused by the threat to their security, and are likely blaming themselves for your problems.
It happens all the time, and I can’t stress this enough when I say the child is ALWAYS the victim in the events that lead up to, and the aftermath of, a divorce. Just a few of the psychological effects of a divorce on a child include:
- Lower academic achievement
- Low self-esteem
The best way to mitigate these effects is to be sensitive to their needs — whether they’ve verbalized them or not — and talk to them. That conversation is probably still the toughest talk you’ll ever have with them. But it must happen.
Below are a few helpful tips to tell your children that you are getting a divorce.
If you delay telling your children that you are getting divorced because you’re too afraid and would rather sweep it all under the rug, you run the risk of them finding out by other means. There’s also a higher likelihood that you’ll destroy any trust they have in you and your spouse. This is a surefire way to make an already stressful situation a thousand times worse, so as soon as you know that divorce is the answer, sit your children down and have the talk.
Tell them together
This is high on the list for a reason. Even if your divorce is setting up to be a nasty, contested case, your children didn’t choose for this to happen. They deserve to hear from both of you. Breaking the news together avoids confusion, maintains trust, and keeps the child from choosing sides. This is also a great exercise in learning what it will take to co-parent once the divorce is final. You’ll need to work even harder once the divorce happens for the benefit of your children.
Plan ahead and keep it simple
While you may think that you know exactly what needs to be said, the odds are high that you’ll stumble over a few things and even get too caught up in your emotions or your child’s reactions. This is where planning ahead is critical. Choose your words carefully ahead of time and be clear that even though mommy and daddy won’t be living together anymore and that the path ahead might seem scary, you will always be there for them. Speak in terms your child will understand; there’s no need to get bogged down in complicated details. I highly recommend obtaining professional guidance from a children’s counselor before you talk to your kids about your divorce.
Take your time
Give this conversation the time it deserves. Don’t plan to talk to them when they’re hungry, already upset because of something else, or you are limited on time. Difficult conversations take time. They will have questions that won’t be easily answered, and they will likely want to talk about everything and need to be consoled. Meanwhile, you will need time to share your feelings effectively.
Tell them it’s not their fault
Your children will naturally believe they are somehow to blame for their parents’ breakup — that one time they didn’t clean up their room when they were told to must be the reason, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth, so tell them that. Reiterate it again and again and again. You must tell them the decision to divorce has nothing to do with them. Apologize for everything that’s happening and stress that it’s not because of anything they’ve done.
Don’t point fingers
Regardless of who is to blame for the divorce, be kind, honest, and sensitive when discussing things with your children. Don’t play the blame game, avoid making yourself look better than the other parent, and don’t use anger and resentment to get your point across. Telling your children that you are getting a divorce is difficult enough, so don’t fuel the fire by letting your emotions take the wheel.
Be prepared for a ton of questions
What’s a divorce? Where will I sleep? Can’t you just say sorry and get back together? Why is this happening? The questions will likely come fast and in bunches, so be prepared to show grace and patience as you answer in an age-appropriate way. Not all questions need to be answered, and you should gently redirect questions that tend to be of an adult nature. Also, be prepared for lots of tears and maybe some anger. This is not something you should get upset with your child about. Remember, you are the reason this is happening. It’s up to you to pour love into them.
Don’t promise them the world
When you feel guilty about turning your kids’ world upside down, it can be easy to promise them all sorts of nice things to make it up to them. Doing this doesn’t necessarily solve anything, and it only masks what will still be a new way of life for the entire family. On top of that, you may not be able to deliver on some of those promises. Instead, promise them that you will always be there for them no matter what happens, and be upfront about the difficult road ahead.
Call Nelson Law Group Today!!
I hope that you will be able to have a healthy conversation with your children about your divorce. I also strongly urge you to seek help from someone who specializes in family counseling to guide and prepare you. My advice is that while this conversation will be difficult, see it through. It’s not about you. It’s about your children.
Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC a call if you have any further questions regarding this – or any other – issue. Give us a call today! For more information about Brett A. Nelson, click here.