Telling children about divorce may be the hardest conversation you’ve ever had, in a long series of really hard conversations. Once you and your spouse have made the difficult decision to divorce, you’re faced with telling the other people who will be most affected – your kids.
Following are the first 5 of 10 suggestions for getting through this difficult conversation as gently as possible.
- Tell them together. In this scary time, your kids need to see their parents as a united team, working together to get through the rough times. If you can’t contemplate sitting down together with the kids for a civil discussion, bring in a third party – a family therapist is a good choice – to guide the conversation and ensure that it doesn’t descend into blame and anger.
- Be honest. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) bare all the painful details, but your children deserve an explanation for why their world is being so fundamentally shaken. Agree ahead of time how you will put the explanation. Keep it simple. If an older child wants more, you can have a longer conversation later.
- Reassure your children. Kids tend to see themselves as the center of their universe. They need to hear from you that they didn’t cause the divorce, that they haven’t done anything wrong, and that you both love them as deeply as ever. Let them know that you will both continue to be a part of their lives.
- Give them details. If possible, work out in advance where each of you will be living, and what their lives will be like once you split. Issues as basic as “Where will I sleep?”, “Where will our dog live?”, “Who will pick me up after school?” and “What about Christmas?” loom very large in your children’s minds. Giving them as much information as you can will reduce their anxiety.
- Tell everyone. You may believe that only your older children can handle the information, but what are they supposed to do when younger siblings want to know what’s going on? Even if you have children who are too young to understand what you are telling them, tell them anyway, repeating the message as needed. Read them books about divorce so they understand that it’s a part of life for other children, as well.
Check out Getting Divorced: How To Tell Your Children Part II, with more suggestions on how to tell you children about your divorce. Remember that what matters most is not the circumstance, but how your family deals with it. A divorce is never easy. But your unconditional support while your children are processing these changes means the world to them.
If you feel that your child is struggling to process the effects of divorce — or if you need support in helping your child — consider enlisting a Play Therapist. LaunchPad is a counseling practice in Richmond, VA, that helps children use their inner resources to overcome stressful circumstances. Contact us to find out more or schedule an appointment online today.