It’s probably one of the most difficult conversations you’ll have: telling your children why you and your spouse are getting a divorce. There’s no easy way of doing it, but if you’re lucky, your child or children will – at the very least – understand you and your decision. But is there a “right” way to tell your children? How can you best prepare yourself and your kids for this conversation? It turns out, there are a few ways you can make this discussion more comfortable and easier than it might be otherwise.
Plan what to say together with your partner
The psychological and emotional impact a divorce conversation will have on your child is important to consider, so first of all, you and your spouse should talk about how best to bring the topic up. Plan to tell your children on a day when they don’t have much else to stress about, like the weekend. Don’t tell them close to a holiday or before bed; otherwise, they may come to connect the holiday to “the day my dad told me he was divorcing my mom.” If you tell them at night, they may stay up stressing and worrying about it, and it may inhibit their sleep and their day at school the following day. If you and your spouse can’t come together in a civil manner to plan this out, then you may want to seek the help of a mediator or divorce counselor.
Secondly, you and your partner should have this conversation with your children together. It is critical that your kid hears a combined effort from the both of you, showing that both of you care enough to come together to tell them. Not only does this serve as reassurance to your children, but it also guarantees that they are hearing this directly through you, and not indirectly through their siblings if they somehow heard about it first. (That’s why it’s good to come up with a plan before having the conversation.) Consider telling all your children at once, and then coming back to your older children to explain to them further, if need be.
Tell the children WHY this is happening, but don’t blame each other
When you’re talking to your children, it may be tempting to place blame on your spouse if they wronged you in such a way that ended up being the impetus to your divorce. However, if you do that, it can pit your child against the other parent, or it can cause a loyalty conflict for them, and that’s unhealthy. If the truth is difficult in such a way, then it’s more important to care about the mental and emotional health of your child than it is to be honest with them about this. Some examples of good ways of putting your divorce might be “we don’t want to argue anymore” or “we don’t make each other happy anymore.” Put it gently, but make sure the reason makes sense.
Explaining your reasoning is important, but you don’t want to include all the nasty little details that might harm your child’s psyche. Make sure to tell them that you and your spouse have tried to fix things, but it just can’t be done, and that it’s better for everyone that this divorce happens.
Make sure your child knows what’s going to change
There’s a lot of change that comes with a divorce. Properties and assets will be split, houses sold, pets divided. Let your kids know how that will work. Tell them which parent is going to leave the home, and how often they will visit. Reassure them that your relationship with them is not going to change, and that your love for them is not going to change. Remind them of the things that won’t change, such as their friends or hobbies or activities. This is a good time to be honest with them.
Reassure them and invite questions
A divorce is a lot of change for everyone in the family, and more often than not a source of much sadness for your children. Reassure them that there was nothing they could do to prevent the divorce, and that there was nothing they did that caused it. Don’t lie to them here or reassure them of things that are not certain, yet. False promises bring nothing but disappointment. Remind them that though their parents aren’t together in a romantic relationship anymore, that the family as a whole will remain a family.
Children don’t always react right away, and sometimes their reactions are very big or very little or somewhere in between. They might be angry, sad, confused, or there might be a lack of any visible reaction at all. These sorts of reactions are normal, and you should give them space to feel these emotions. If they see you cry or become emotional, that is healthy for them to witness so long as you don’t lose yourself to your emotions. It shows them they can display their emotions as well, and that it’s okay that they do.
Their questions may come right away or much later, but answer them truthfully as possible. If there’s something you don’t know the answer to, let them know as much, but also reassure them that you are all going to get through this together. There will be healing.
It may be difficult to have these sorts of conversations with your children, but it is necessary in order to make sure your kids develop well throughout it all. Working together with your partner to plan, discuss, and reassure your children during this process is the best way to get through a divorce in a healthy manner as a family. The less anxiety or sense of betrayal there is throughout all of this, the better.
If you need help with a divorce, contact Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm at 254-680-4655. Our offices are located in Killeen and Copperas Cove in Central Texas. Feel free to fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to defending my clients. I demand all the evidence. I investigate all the facts, the so-called witnesses and even the police officers. I make it my business to know the law. Cases can be won or lost before you even set foot inside the courtroom.
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