As difficult as the decision to divorce may be for you, your children might experience heartache at the same or greater intensity. Hearing that their parents are getting a divorce can cause panic, sorrow, anger, confusion, or any combination of those feelings.
Fortunately, parents can do a few things to help their kids cope with the news. Following the four tips below will help the entire family adjust to the new normal.
1. Tell your kids together.
Disregard this step if you and your spouse simply cannot bear to be in the same room together—telling your children separately is better than getting into a screaming match in front of them.
If it is feasible, though, you and your spouse should present a united front when breaking the divorce news. This shows your kids that, even if you don’t want to be married anymore, you and your spouse can agree to be civil around them and let them know what’s going on. Don’t get into the underlying details for the split. Keep it matter-of-fact and let them know what will happen in the near future.
2. Prepare a loose script for the meeting.
Again, while there’s no need to get into the reasons for your divorce, you need to give your kids a sufficient amount of information. What do they want to know? A few things:
- Where they’ll be living;
- Who else you’ve told;
- Whether or not they can visit the parent who’s moving out (they should be able to in almost every case);
- When they’ll be able to ask questions (ideally, immediately); and that
- Both you and your spouse don’t love them any less.
Children often ask about the reason for their parents’ divorce. We recommend keeping your answer somewhat vague. Statements like, “We don’t want to argue so much anymore” or, “We want to do what’s best for the family” are acceptable. Never blame anyone, and reassure your kids that they are not to blame for your divorce.
3. Timing is everything.
Don’t plan on telling your kids right before a major holiday or event. Telling them in the car on the way to school is not optimal. Sitting them down on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon, however, is usually good timing. You want to give your kids plenty of time to digest the news without having to be around people who don’t understand what they’re going through.
4. Don’t expect your kids to react a certain way.
You know your kids better than anyone. Don’t expect your nonchalant teenager, though, to simply blow off the discussion. On the other hand, don’t try to elicit a reaction from your usually dramatic tween if he or she appears to take the news in stride. Whatever their reaction, tell them their feelings are normal and valid. Let them know you’re available to talk whenever they feel like talking.
Having the Right Lawyer is Important
Managing everything during divorce is not easy. Between legal documents, financial disclosures, and temporary court orders, you might not feel like your kids are getting the attention and love they need. As your legal representation, we will do everything we can to simplify what can be simplified and guide you through the process as efficiently as possible.