Divorce: Breaking the News to your Children

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Divorce is a difficult process for most adults to go through. When children are involved, the process becomes more complicated. You not only have to worry about your own emotions, you also have to worry about your children’s.

Below are several suggestions that are helpful to keep in mind when approaching your children about your divorce:

  • If you have more than one child, be sure to tell them at the same time. This avoids any information being misconstrued and passed along to another child second hand.  It will also avoid a child feeling like he or she was left in the dark about this life-altering change.
  • Try to keep your emotions in check when having the discussion. It’s okay to be sad and to cry in front of your children, but refrain from expressing anger towards your spouse.
  • Discuss what will be said to the children ahead of time. Try to have the discussion with the children with both parents present.
  • Avoid making the announcement of your divorce at a time that can be disruptive to events that the kids are looking forward to or are excited about. If possible, avoid any times approaching vacations, holidays, birthdays, or major projects or exams at school.
  • It is imperative that your children are aware that the divorce is not their fault. It sounds cliché but children are sensitive individuals and may find the slightest reason to blame themselves for their parents no longer being together.
  • Remain clear about the divorce. Don’t say you are taking a “break” or you need some time apart. This can lead to a false hope that mom and dad could possibly get back together.
  • Refrain from telling your children that “mommy and daddy still love each other.” This can also create a sense of false hope. Instead, tell your children that you and your spouse both still love them very much and that will never change.
  • Try to give your children time to absorb the news about the divorce before a parent moves out of the house. The timing will allow things to sink in a little instead of having one parent suddenly move out without warning.
  • It is helpful if you and your spouse have decided on a parenting plan before a parent moves out. This way the children can be told where they will spend time with each parent.  Use a calendar to help younger children understand the schedule.
  • Encourage your children to express how they are feeling about the situation. They may not want to discuss it at times, but they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or feel a particular way.
  • Never discuss specifics about your divorce proceedings with the children. They need to know and understand that their parents are divorcing. However, a discussion regarding assets, debts, or even where they prefer to live should never occur.

Divorce affects every child differently. There is no text book way to prepare your children with news about their parents’ divorce, but keeping a few of these points in mind may help you prepare for such a discussion.

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