Children look to their parents for security, and divorce inevitably shifts the family foundation a child has come to rely on. That’s why it’s important to ensure they understand that they will continue to be loved and cared for as they always have – even if their parents are no longer living under the same roof.
As you prepare to tell your child(ren) about your separation from their other parent, take an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a healthy new start for the whole family. Below are a few tips that will help you begin this difficult conversation.
Develop a Strategy Ahead of Time
Children are remarkably perceptive. They probably have noticed that all isn’t well between their parents. However, telling your children about splitting up should be a conversation that is done with intention.
So, even though it may be tough, shelve any animosity you have for your spouse long enough for the two of you to figure out how to break this life-changing news to your kids.
You’ll also want to consider how you’ll answer their questions and how much information you feel is appropriate to share with them.
Pick the Right Time
Your children will need some time to process the news of the divorce. So it’s best to tell them when they have a day or two to make sense of the situation. Avoid holidays, special days like birthdays, and school nights. Weekends can be a good time.
Tell Them Together
As long as it is safe, you and your partner should talk to your child(ren) about the break-up as a unit. This can be helpful to them in numerous ways. For one, it will reassure them that no matter what changes, the two of you will always be their parents. It also gives them an opportunity for them to ask each of you questions about your decision to divorce.
Be Honest and Age Appropriate
What you tell your children depends on various factors. For instance, teens and pre-teens typically understand more than young children. Likewise, the conversation may be a little different for a child or teen who has an intellectual disability.
Teens may ask for more details and want to know how this change will affect their lives. Younger children will likely need extra affection and reassurance that you both still love them.
Make Sure They Know It’s Not Their Fault
Fault may come up during the initial divorce conversation, or your child might bring it up later. Either way, children must know that they did absolutely nothing to contribute to the breakup. Reinforce that the decision to separate was not because of them, rather it was due to adult problems.
Prepare Them for What’s Ahead
Kids thrive on routine, so it’s important to tell them what’s changing and what will remain the same.
They may be eager to know who they’ll live with, if they have to change schools, and whether they can continue to participate in extracurricular activities.
You probably won’t have the answers to all their questions. What you can do, though, is point out what will not change. For example, if you know that you will still pick them up from school, tell them.
Support and Validate Them
Keep an open door for questions and conversations, but don’t push them beyond their comfort zone. Let them know that whatever emotional response they are having is natural, and help them find ways to work through it.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney About Your Divorce with Kids
If you’re considering divorce, and you have kids, I strongly encourage you to get a family law attorney. They’ll help you safeguard your parental rights and ensure you get your parenting plan and custody agreement right the first time. Call 303-688-0944 to set up a free case assessment.