Most divorced parents will agree that one of the hardest aspects of a divorce was breaking the news to the kids. Telling your children that you’re getting divorced is a difficult, and very stressful job. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, then you’ll agree that it simply has to be done. In that case what matters most is how you do it.
We’ve already discussed the first two items on your list in our previous article, namely making a plan before you talk to them, and addressing the issue as a family. Moving forward, The Kronzek Firm is going to look at the last two items on our list of things to keep in mind when breaking it to the kids.
Expect the unexpected…
While tears, screaming, slamming doors and even the silent treatment are all pretty standard responses for kids who are angry or hurt by something, they don’t always respond in the way that you might expect.
Kids are still inherently egocentric, and so their responses tend to be tied to how they perceive something might affect them directly. For this reason, some kids might respond by asking questions that seem selfish, but are actually quite normal. For example, asking if they are still going to keep getting an allowance, or whether or not they will be able to continue the extra curricular activity they are involved in. Remember that in addition to being concerned about themselves, they also seek consistency and they want to avoid change.
When you break the news to your kids and are met with questions like, “What about my birthday? Will I still get presents from both of you?” Or “But you said we could all go on vacation together next summer to visit Grandma! Am I still going to be able to go and visit her?” These may seem selfish but they aren’t abnormal. They are just perfectly normal concerns for a child, who is helpless to control their own lives. Give them time to process and accept these events that impact their lives.
Be willing to talk…
Your kids are going to have a lot of questions. A lot of fears and concerns, and they are going to need you to be there to help them work through those feelings in a kind way. Because kids don’t have control of their own lives in any significant way, they are often prone to increased stress about unexpected changes and chaotic situations.
It’s your job to help them process what they are feeling, and answer to all of their questions. It may be frustrating, especially if they are seeking reassurance about their place in the family. That means they ask the same questions over and over. It is critical that you be available to answer all of their questions and allay their fears in the most supportive way possible.
Also, be prepared to have many more talks about the divorce. Having told them about the fact that it’s happening is only the tip of the iceberg. You are likely going to have to talk about it over and over in the coming weeks and months as your children adjust to what it means to their own lives. Be as patient and as kind as you can. This is a difficult time for everyone – them included – and you could all use a little extra care during this process.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. Our family law attorneys work with a terrific bunch of marriage counselors, divorce counselors, parenting time experts, social workers, psychologists and others throughout Oakland County that can help ease the burden of working through your divorce.
We hope this breakdown was helpful for you, and provided you with some useful tips on how to handle this very difficult conversation with your children. For advice about this or any other aspect of the divorce process, call our respected family law attorneys. We are here to help you having represented thousands of clients in divorce cases.