In Getting Divorced? How to Tell Children About Divorce Part I, I listed the first five suggestions for telling children about divorce. In Part II, I will share with you another five suggestions that will help your children process the upcoming changes in the most healthy way possible.
Listen. Your children will have a lot of feelings about your announcement, and expressing those feelings will help them cope. Listen to what they have to say and try to understand what concerns lie behind the words. It may not be easy to hear, but this is valuable information for you as you move your family in a new direction.
Provide a sense of control. Your children have to come to terms with the fact that they have no say over much of the situation. Allowing them to make some decisions restores a sense of control. Provide them with a few options like what to have for dinner, or what fun activity to do. But make sure those choices do not involve choosing between you and your partner.
Don’t tell and forget. It may not be something you want to return to, but be aware that your kids can’t just get on with their reordered lives. Your divorce is a huge event in their lives and you may need to answer the same questions repeatedly and offer reassurance as often as they need it. This doesn’t mean you should obsess about the divorce, but be open to signs that your kids need to talk about it again.
Once you’ve made the announcement, get on with it. You can’t control the timing of every aspect of a divorce, but once your kids know what’s coming, it’s kindest to complete the divorce and make your new living arrangements as soon as possible so they aren’t left with one foot in their old life and one in the new.
Don’t over promise. Your first reaction as a parent will likely be to try to comfort your children, but if you tell them everything will be great you’ll be lying. Things will be awkward and even painful for a while. You can reassure them that you will all get through this change by working together and that you and your spouse will always have their best interests at heart.
Remember that you chose to divorce because you believe this decision will improve your life, and the lives of your kids. Your children will struggle to understand this. They may blame you, and most likely exhibit some difficult behaviors. Be patient, stay consistent in your responses, and allow them space to process these changes. What’s most important is not their circumstance, but how you respond to it.
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.