Research has shown that it’s not divorce that traumatizes children; it’s conflict between their parents. Telling your children that you are going to get a divorce is a pivotal moment in their lives. Many good books have been written about it, for all different age groups. How best to go about telling your children about divorce?
- The parents should talk together prior to the conversation with the children. It’s essential to reach agreement on what you are going to say to them and how you are going to handle the conversation. Anticipate what they will ask and formulate how you will respond. Agree on a co-parenting plan for the near future that allows as much stability and consistency as possible for the children. This preparation allows you as parents to come across as a united front, which is very important.
- Tell the children in person at a time when they are not busy or stressed.
- You should both should be present for the conversation and both of you need to speak. Neither parent should have previously told the children about the divorce.
- Don’t let feelings of hurt or anger leak out into the conversation with the children. You may need to wait to have the conversation until you are confident each of you are able to do this. It’s important for the conversation to be positive and constructive and for the children to see that you are still acting together as a team.
Key Messages to Convey
- The divorce is not their fault. There’s nothing they could have done to prevent it and it’s not up to them to try to fix it.
- You each still love them and will always be there for them. You may reassure them that you will still be a family; it’s just that mom and dad are going to separate. Your marital relationship is ending but your parental relationship with each of them will never end.
- Be clear and specific about how things will be going forward, i.e. living, parenting and school arrangements.
Other Do’s and Don’ts When Telling Your Children About Divorce
- Speak with the children on their level. Let them have their feelings and encourage their questions. Empathize with them and reassure them. Answer their questions about what this all means and how it will affect them.
- Don’t get too detailed about why the marriage is ending. Mom and Dad have grown apart and have decided to separate. It’s normally better not to talk about the cause(s) of your break-up.