Probably the most painful conversation you’ll ever encounter is talking to kids about divorce. This conversation will likely have a profound impact on your children and remain with them for a long time.
Plan Together on the Best Way to Tell Your Children About Divorce
Work together and determine when, how, and what you will say to your kids about the divorce. You can’t just blurt it out five minutes before the children leave for soccer practice. Set aside a specific time in your busy life so everyone is not distracted and can give their full attention. If you and your spouse can’t agree on the basics like when or how to do it or what to say, consider a mediator or other type of counselor to help work out the details.
Talk to Your Kids About Divorce Together
It might be tempting for one of the parents to inform the kids without the other one present. But don’t do it. You have to tell them together because it shows you’re dedicated to working together as their parents. Also, make sure and tell all children at the same time. This may be tempting not to do if they are separated by many years. Please don’t, though. It would be very harmful for one sibling to hear it from another. If the age gap is large enough, you may have a follow-up discussion with the older one later.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
When talking to kids about divorce, don’t assign blame or say that it’s one of the parent’s fault. It’s often tempting to want to tell the kids the truth, like “daddy had an affair,” or “mom is moving or Oregon to live with her boyfriend.” Statements like these may cause the children to feel trapped in the middle and that they must choose a side. That’s just not healthy for them. At this point in the discussion process, the truth is not as critical as providing your young ones the support and care they need.
Your children will likely press for details. It’s human nature. So be prepared to give a general explanation that doesn’t involve blame for either parent. Something like “we want different things in our lives.”
Status Quo and Change
Children may have varying degrees of concern and questions about the divorce and your reasons for it. However, they all want to know how it will affect their lives. If you’ve worked out how you’ll share time with them, you can explain that. It’s also useful to let them know what will stay the same. For example, they’ll still be taken to soccer practice on time. One thing to reinforce is that your love for them will never change. After all, you’re getting a divorce from your spouse, not the children. When talking to kids about divorce, try to frame it towards their lives so it is more relevant to them.
Which Parent is Leaving Home?
More than likely, one of you is going to leave the house. If you’ve worked it out yet, make sure to tell the children about where the departing parent will be living and what the arrangements are for visiting that parent. Reassure the kids that this is still a family. It’s just that there are two households now.
When to Tell Your Kids About the Divorce
The time is now – before they hear it from someone else. It is essential that you and your spouse are the ones who talk to your kids about divorce, and not a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or friend.
How to Tell Your Teenager You are Getting a Divorce
Follow the same process above. Except a teenager is more cognitively advanced than younger children. The latter likely will shed tears but may not understand what’s going on. Teenagers, though, understand divorce, and it may be appropriate to share more details about the divorce with them.
How to Talk to Your Young Child About Divorce
For kids three or four years old, they can rapidly form the wrong idea when a divorce occurs. For example, if the mother leaves the family and moves away, the young child may think that mom left them rather than mom left the father. It’s challenging for children this age to understand what’s going on. Professional counseling may be appropriate if the young ones don’t handle it well. It’s simply very problematic to relate a complicated concept like divorce to someone that age.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Separation
In general, it’s the same as talking to kids about divorce. However, if there’s truly a chance of you reuniting, then you can share that with them. The possibility of reconciliation can be a positive aspect of an otherwise unpleasant discussion.
We’re Here to Help
Divorce is hard, but talking to kids about divorce may be even more daunting. At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, we can help you through the complicated process of divorce and related issues, including possible avenues of support if you’re having trouble talking to kids about divorce. Call us today at 908-691-2104 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.