Telling your kids that you and your spouse are going to divorce may be one of the most difficult conversations you have with your children. While there is no cookie-cutter script that will work in every situation, there are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare to break the news.
Agree on the message
Before you and your spouse tell any children about the divorce, it is important to plan a unified message that will be conveyed. Prepare yourselves to present the news in a mature way that does not assign blame to one person. Instead, agree on a common message in which both you and your spouse take ownership of your marriage ending. This will help prevent your children thinking they caused the divorce or that they must choose between you and your spouse.
Call a family meeting
When it comes time to tell your children, tell all your children the news at one time. Sometimes people are inclined to tell older children first, but that can mean the older children feel responsible for keeping your secret, while the younger children may feel like you do not trust them with the truth.
Expect a variety of reactions
After telling your children the news, be prepared for a variety of reactions. Depending on each child’s age and personality, he or she may be relieved that the fighting between you and your spouse will end, sad about the change in your family or worried about losing a relationship with one parent.
Some parents try to lessen the sting of the news by telling their kids that it will be okay, but it is important to understand that there usually isn’t anything that will make divorce better for children. Instead, allow each child to feel the emotions that come to him or her, and support your children by helping them understand that their feelings are valid.
After telling your children, be prepared to answer questions honestly. Because reactions will vary child to child, questions and follow-up conversations will also vary. There may be a barrage of questions right away or questions may trickle in over time.
Pre-teens and teens tend to have a good understanding about what divorce is. They also have the ability to participate in conversations by asking questions to get their concerns addressed. Young children may have a limited understanding of what divorce is or how it will affect them, so it may take several short talks for them to fully understand. Young children may also lack the vocabulary to express their feelings to you, so they may respond by acting out. Books about divorce can help kids understand divorce and focus on their feelings.
No matter what you do, telling your children about your divorce will be an emotional experience for everyone. Every child and every situation is unique, so you and your spouse will have to determine what the best tactics are for your family discussion. However, it may beneficial to consider some common tips to help you have the most successful conversation with your kids as possible.