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How do you tell your children about your divorce?
Divorce is one of the most difficult and challenging experiences for parents. It is even more challenging when children are impacted. Most children, even teenagers, do not fully comprehend the root causes of their parents’ divorce. When the separation and or divorce process begins, children and their parents are left overwhelmed and with a lot of questions. The question I am most frequently asked by parents deciding to divorce relates to how they inform their children about their divorce. I suggest that what they tell their children and how they tell their children is often determined by the children’s ages and level of maturity, and the ability of the parents to co-parent and not to use a meeting with the children to blame the other parent about the divorce.
If the parents can agree that they can have an amicable discussion (and hold it together) with the other in front of the children about their marriage ending, then they should arrange a family meeting on a Saturday morning. Remember, there is no good time to share bad news. People do tell their children about divorce during holidays. A Saturday morning allows the children the remaining part of Saturday and Sunday to serve as a buffer before they return to school on Monday morning.
Telling your child that their parents are divorcing will be one of their life’s most memorable moments so it is imperative that both parents get it right. You want your kids to remember that day as the beginning of their new life when Mom and Dad began treating the other with more respect and civility and both parents actually became happier or less stressed.
I do find that parents with very young children often believe that their children are more impacted by and understand more about divorce and the parents’ relationship than the children typically do. Most kids just want their lives to remain the same and to spend their time playing with their friends and remain involved in their activities.
In telling the children about divorce, it is imperative to tell them over and over how this is not their fault. Kids will look for past events to make sense of what has occurred and relate what they have done to their parents fighting or falling out of love. Again, it is important to emphasize that they did nothing to cause the divorce. Parents should also explain that Mom and Dad will remain in their lives, and that they will do as much as they can to ensure their lives closely resemble how they are living today. Let them know that there will some changes though but that Mom and Dad will be with them along the way to support them and ensure that they are okay.
Regarding what to tell your child, it is important not to bring up affairs, financial or employment issues, or criticism toward the other spouse. Instead, simply explain that Mom and Dad have been trying to work out their differences for a long time and that they can no longer make the other happy, and that the kids will understand more as time passes, but that they will continue to be loved and supported.
Additionally, if meeting with your children in the morning, you will want to give them the next several hours to digest the information. It is important that you both are present for the next few hours or several hours to answer any additional questions they may have for you. They will ask you why you both can’t go to therapy and just love the other more. It’s important to tell them that you have been trying these things and that sometimes, it is just better for the children that the adults raise the children apart. It is okay to be sad in speaking with your children, but they will be referring to your reactions to determine what level of confidence they should have in moving forward in life with this new news.
This type of information and more is provided in our Florida Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. We hope that you will consider taking our course or contacting one our of providers for support if you need assistance. In addition to our Florida Divorce Course, we offer individual therapy, couples counseling, reunification therapy, family mediation, parenting coordination, social investigations, relocation evaluation, and divorce coaching. Contact us at 904-379-8094 if we can be of assistance.