How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce
Wanting to talk to your kids about divorce means preparing for one of the most challenging conversations you’ll have. First, you need to talk with your spouse and decide how you’ll inform them. Here are some key points to consider and help you with planning this big conversation.
Decide when, how, and what will you tell them
When you decide to talk to your kids about divorce, your main goal is to protect them from your hurt, sadness, or anger. That’s why it is essential to plan with your spouse when, how, and what you’re going to tell them. Pick a day that allows some family time (for example, a weekend) when you’re not pressed for time. Of course, you should avoid doing it during summer vacation, a holiday, a family member’s birthday, or another special day or occasion.
Even though there is no ideal time to tell your kids something serious and complex as your decision to get a divorce, some times of the day are even worse than others. So, avoid having this conservation just before their school or bedtime.
If you and your spouse are having a tough time talking to each other and making any agreements, or if you can’t agree on how to do it, you should consider seeking help. Finding a mediator, a divorce coach, or a counselor may be a good option, as they can help you work out the details and make a proper plan.
Talk to your children together
Even though this step might be hard, it’s crucial because it lets your kids know that you’re still committed to working together as their parents. Your children should hear the news at the same time (no matter their age) and directly from you. When you share the essential information with them, later you’ll be able to have separate conservation and follow up with the older kids.
Don’t assign blame to your spouse
During this emotional conversation, you may be tempted to say something impulsively, assign blame to your spouse or say whose fault the whole situation is. Even though you may want your children to know the truth (such as who had an affair or who decided to leave), that isn’t good for them, as they might feel caught in the middle. Your kids need the support and reassurance more than “truth”, specific details, or anything else.
Explain why this is happening
Your kids will naturally want to know why you are planning to divorce. Older kids require enough information so that they can understand why their lives are changing. You don’t need to share any details of personal nature, but you must give some type of general explanation. Keep in mind that no matter how smart and mature your kids might be, they are not ready to understand grown-up problems just yet.
Talk about what will change
When you talk to your kids about divorce, the most important things they’ll want to know are:
- How is the divorce going to affect them and their routines?
- Where are they going to live, and with whom?
- Will they have to change schools?
- Will they still get to see their friends?
- Can they still do their favorite activities?
- How will they spend the holidays and with whom?
Start preparing your kids for these changes by being honest with them about what you know and what you don’t know just yet. If you and your spouse already agreed on sharing time with the kids, let them know the schedule. You can tell them about the things that will stay the same, such as their friends, sports, or other activities. Also, remind them that your love for them will never change.
Be honest with your answers
Answer their questions honestly and be clear in your responses. If they ask about something that you haven’t figured out just yet, let them know that you’ll inform them right away when you sort it out. Even though honesty is very important, you should keep your kids out of the legal, financial, and other adult issues you might have.
Explain to them that this is not anybody’s fault
Don’t forget to remind your kids that nothing they did has caused what’s happening, nor could they fix it. Don’t make false promises you won’t be able to keep. Instead, stick with the assurances for the present time. Explain that the new situation will be challenging for a while but that they’ll get used to the new arrangements, adjust to the changes, and heal. You need to reassure them that they will be able to maintain a quality relationship with both of you, even though you won’t be all living under the same roof anymore.
Make moving easier for your kids
It’s important to explain to your kids who will be leaving the family home, when and where to. If you’re planning a long-distance move with your kids, talk about all the advantages of a new place and what they can expect. Inform them about your plan and moving date on time. Furthermore, try to make this move a fun experience for them. If their age allows, declutter their rooms together and pack their items together. They can decorate the moving boxes and play certain games while they’re helping you. Let them plan the design of their new rooms, such as choosing the colors of the walls, choosing some theme-based furniture, etc. They should understand that the move is something to look forward to, something they’ll be able to benefit from and adapt to easily and quickly.
The Bottom Line
Even with all the tips on how to talk to your kids about divorce, the news will undoubtedly change their lives. Try to be understanding of every possible reaction they might have, such as tears or extreme anger. A divorce can be a roller coaster of emotions that are all intense. Be as calm as you can when you tell your children, so it will be easier for them to anticipate that they will be ok. Of course, you can be upset or cry in front of them in the following days. They must be aware that everybody has feelings, and everybody must find the right way to express them.