For divorcing parents, one of the most difficult tasks they will face is having to tell their children about their divorce. This important conversation can have a powerful impact on how they cope with their parents’ divorce and all the inevitable changes that will follow. Knowing what to say and how to say it can be a challenge, so make sure you prepare for this vital conversation.
Here are some tips that will help you have this sensitive conversation with your children:
- Remember that you are in this together: You and your spouse might not be on great terms, but you must have this conversation with your children as a team, if possible. After all, you are both still their parents and it will give your children great comfort to know that, although you will no longer be married, you will still raise and care for them together, as a team. If you have a deeply contentious relationship, remember to maintain the focus of the conversation on your children. This conversation is for them, so forget about the events that led to your divorce or how your spouse might have wronged you and focus on them.
- Pick the right time: Do not tell your children right before dropping them off at school or at a time when there will not be an opportunity for more dialogue and questions. Your children might not ask you anything afterward, but they should still have a chance to process the information on their own without worrying about any other tasks. Having this conversation before the weekend would be ideal because it will give them a couple of days to ask questions or have follow-up conversations.
- Let them know they did not affect your decision: Kids often feel a lot of guilt when their parents split up. No matter how irrational that sounds to you, you and your spouse need to explicitly tell them that they did not influence your decision to get divorced and that, despite the coming changes, you will both always love them and be there for them. This is going to be a rough time for them, so give them as much reassurance as possible.
- Tell them the plan: To relieve their anxiety, let your children know what to expect. If one of you plans to move out of the family home, tell them when, where, and how often they will be able to see their other parent. You might not have all the answers now, so if you cannot answer one of their questions, tell them when you find out. However, do not get into details about why you and your spouse are getting divorced. Doing so will only lead you to play the blame game.
- Be there for them: As important as this initial conversation is, nothing will be more essential for your children than your presence, so make sure you are available and provide them with support.
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