The decision to divorce is a difficult one, fraught with emotions and “what ifs.” When you have children, it can seem the decision is compounded because you have to involve them in the process, regardless of their age or feelings about the divorce.
Once you and your spouse have made the decision to divorce, your next main task is to tell your children. There are certainly right and wrong ways to go about having the conversation, so a careful approach is necessary. Here are 4 tips for telling your children you’re getting a divorce:
Tell All the Children Together
Though it may seem like a good idea to tell the older children, as they may seem more suited to properly handle the news, it’s never a good idea to break big news to only some of your children. Even if you only tell the oldest, the news will filter down through the other children, which could lead to confusion and misinformation.
Approaching the discussion in age-appropriate manners is key to talking with all your children at once. If you sit everyone down and say, “We’re getting a divorce,” that could mean different things to children at different developmental stages.
Your oldest children may know, because of experiences of friends with divorced parents, that divorce will mean moving, separate holidays and weekends, and possibly changing schools. Younger children may not yet know or understand what the term means.
Begin by telling your children you’re getting a divorce. Then, give them some details about what that will mean – That one or both of you will move out of the house, that a previously stay-at-home parent will be going back to work, or that they will be splitting time between houses. Leaving space for questions that may come up, even days or weeks down the line, and answering them honestly is important to helping your children process their new reality.
Reaffirm Your Love for Them
Learning that their parents no longer love one another can bring up some scary questions for children. If parents can stop loving one another, does that mean they can stop loving children?
Reassure your children that you both will always love them, regardless of what your family structure looks like, and that this decision will help you both become better parents to them. Make time in all the uncertainty that is a divorce to take your children on special outings or just sit down and talk with them.
They need to know, in this time of upheaval, that you and your spouse love them no matter what. Being secure in that knowledge will help them process the split and come out stronger on the other side.
Don’t Place Blame
In a divorce, it can be really easy to assign blame for the split-up to one side or the other. Even if there was someone at fault in your divorce, do not tell your children this.
Pointing fingers could lead to divided loyalties or emotional conflict for children who love their parents but are grappling with one being the “cause” of the family breakup.
Instead of placing blame, tell your children it was a decision that was made after lots of thought, and that you and your spouse feel it is the best thing to do for everyone in the family. Again, reiterate that you will both always love them and be there for them, and encourage them to ask any questions they may have.
Ask for Help
If one of your children seems to struggle with the idea of the divorce, or if you see problems at home or school begin to arise, seek out the help of a professional counselor trained to help children navigate their emotions surrounding divorce.
Your child isn’t always going to come right out and say she’s upset about the divorce. Having problems adjusting can manifest as increased anger or moodiness, difficulty maintaining grades in school, or withdrawing from friends and activities. Many children, especially younger ones, don’t yet have the language to connect their feelings to their new surroundings. Seeking out a professional to help guide your child is critical.
Compassionate Family Law Representation in Rockville, MD
For more than 30 years, the team at Wise Family Law Division has provided compassionate, skilled representation to families navigating the sensitive divorce process. We prioritize cooperation and amicable solutions, saving you time and money and decreasing stress. Schedule your consultation today!