Divorce Coach's Guide to How to Talk to Your Kids about Divorce
by Pav Lertjitbanjong
One of the most difficult tasks in a divorce is explaining the situation to your children. It can be heartbreaking to see your child in pain and it's inevitable that the divorce is going to hurt them.
But that doesn't mean that divorce isn't still the right choice for your family. When you are confident that the healthiest decision is to divorce your partner, here are a few ways you can mitigate the painful experience for your child.
1. Unite Together
It can be difficult in a messy divorce to remain united when you tell your children about what is going on. But your children will do best if they hear about the divorce from both of you at the same time. Telling your children together that you are getting a divorce will reassure them that, though you won't be married anymore, you are still a family unit. Make sure your kids know they still have two parents who love them dearly and who will continue to be a team as you co-parent them.
2. Don't Blame Anyone
You may feel that one partner is to blame in this divorce but telling your children that will not help them. Your kids will feel divided if they believe either parent dislikes the other. You must hold in your hostility and make the divorce seem as neutral as possible. Never speak badly of the other parent, both of you are a super hero in your children's eyes. Don't let either parent fall off that pedestal by speaking of each other's faults.
3. Allow Your Children to be Upset
It isn't helpful to try and stifle feelings at this time. The most important thing to do is to let your child be upset in whatever way they wish to. If your children want to cry, be there to hold to them. If your kids yell at you, accept it with grace and do not punish them for it. Divorce will be a huge transition in your child's life and they need to grieve this change.
4. Have a Plan
Before you even speak to your kids, know exactly what will be happening next. Which parent will be moving out? What will the custody arrangement look like? Do not speak to your kids until you have these details figured out. When your children find out about the divorce, they are going to have many questions about what their new life will look like. Provide answers to these questions, it will give your children stability to know what comes next. Telling your kids you will be getting a divorce before you have a plan in place will cause your child a lot of stress.
5. Seek Family Counseling
Many people may feel therapy is not necessary until it appears a problem has arisen. But don't wait until you see unusual behavior in your child to speak to a therapist. Even in the healthiest of divorces, therapy can be extremely beneficial during this transitional period. If possible, try to schedule both family and individual therapy sessions.
Divorce is never easy for anyone involved, least of all the children. But by being prepared, you can make this new transition in their lives as stable as possible. Be there for your children and reassure them that no matter how chaotic this divorce may feel to them, both of their parents love them dearly and will be there for them.