It can be very hard to explain to your children that their parents are going to be separating. Some children act out in anger, sadness, confusion or, most often, a mix of many feelings. Older kids may even understand the situation and feel a sense of relief if there had been conflict between you and your spouse for a while.
Although the talk will always be difficult, the way that you break the news to your kids may stick with them for their entire lives. Here are 4 tips to help your children through the divorce talk.
1. NEVER have the talk until you are 100% sure you are divorcing.
If conflicts constantly arise in your marriage, you may be considering divorce. You may be under a lot of stress, but do not talk to your kids about the possibility of divorcing unless you have finalized that plan with your spouse. This will only frighten them and put that same stress onto their shoulders too.
2. Choose the time and place carefully.
Studies show that children of all ages form very strong memories of the divorce talk with their parents. Even those who were young at the time can recall the memory into adulthood. Pick an appropriate setting and do not rush the conversation. They will need a bit of time to process what's happening and voice their concerns to you.
For example, telling them on the 10-minute car ride to school would be an inappropriate time and place.
3. Make sure the whole family is together.
It may be hard to collaborate or cooperate with your spouse, but it is important for your children's well-being to have both parents present during the talk. It lets them see that, even though you're divorcing, you are still united as parents to care for them.
Tell all your kids at once. Some families tell the oldest child first because they believe it shelters the younger ones, but this puts immense stress on the oldest and can make younger kids feel betrayed or hurt when they find out.
4. Be honest.
Your children will have a lot of questions when you tell them the news. It may be tempting to beat around the bush or tell them everything will be fine and stay the same, but that will only hurt them in the long run. They want to know what to expect. Tell them truthfully how this could affect their lives, such as their school and living situations. Assure them that the divorce is, in no way, their fault and that both parents still love them dearly.
Do not talk about the details of your conflicts or why you are divorcing. Keep the focus on how much you both love and support them as parents and that you are there for them through the changes.