Divorce is hard, no doubt about it. But one of the most difficult aspects of this process for parents, is breaking the news to your kids. Few things are harder than sitting your children down and telling them that their family is about to fall apart at the seams, especially if they are young. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
If you and your spouse have children together and you are considering ending your marriage, you have some challenging moments ahead with your kids. In an effort to make this process a little less frightening for you and a little more streamlined, we have compiled a list of things you need to keep in mind when telling your kids about your pending divorce.
Make a plan…
This is going to be a hard talk, so don’t try to go into it unprepared. Spend a little time with your spouse talking about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Remember that, when it comes to telling your kids about a divorce, the reasons are less important than assurances that you still love them and will always be there for them.
Your kids are likely to be very sad and confused, and possibly even angry. Focus on what’s critical. You and your spouse need to agree ahead of time that there will be no finger pointing, no placing of blame, and no “trash talking.” Ensure that while you explain to them what’s going to happen, you remind them repeatedly that you still love them and will always love them no matter what happens. Here are some key phrases you could try:
- “We will always be your mom and dad. But we aren’t going to be husband and wife any more.”
- “Even though things are going to change, we will always be a family.”
- “We both love you very much. Nothing will ever change that love, or the fact that we will always be here for you.”
- “You are great kids. You need to know that it’s our fault that this is happening, not yours.”
Keeping it together…
When telling your children that their parents are going to part ways, experts agree that you would be better off handling this as a family unit, rather than trying to talk to each child individually. Sit everyone down together in the living room or dining room, and talk about it together. This will allow children to ask questions that you and your spouse can navigate together, and keeps the “his fault/her fault” to a minimum.
Keep in mind, however, that if your children’s ages vary widely, you may want to discuss this with them separately. A 10-year-old will react very differently than the way a 2-year-old would, and that difference in comprehension and reaction could make this talk much harder. For example, a young child could be set off by a shouting teenager. If you think your children might be better off hearing the news separately, set up times to speak with each one while the other one is out with friends or family.
Join us next time as we wrap up this two part series on how to break the news about your divorce to your kids. It’s never going to be an easy topic to talk about, but being prepared can help you make it less stressful for everyone involved.