Divorce isn’t easy on any of the parties concerned, it’s a lot of hard decisions to make and difficult conversations to have. Perhaps that most painful, and complex conversation is the one will need to have with your child(ren). Your impending divorce is going to have as much as an impact on their lives as it is on yours. No matter how difficult this conversation might be – it is imperative that they hear it from you, the parents. Hearing about it someone else (no matter how close they might be) is likely to leave a deeply negative impact on them. Keep in mind that the child(ren) will remember the conversation vividly, and that is why what you say, when and where they hear it should be carefully thought over. The best thing you can do it is to decide with your partner and come up with a plan of action that is mutually agreeable.
Plan what to say
Protect your kids from your emotions by planning (together) what, how, and when you’ll be explaining your decision to them. Have the conversation on a day that allows you to spend some family time together, preferably over the weekend. Refrain from doing it on a holiday, or a special occasion to prevent them from associating that day with negativity for a long while to come. It’s also not a good idea to do it before they go to school or bedtime; they need to be given enough time to express their emotions and get the answers to the questions they ask.
If it is impossible to do this with your spouse, or you’re unsure of how to go about it, consider involving a mediator, counsellor, or divorce coach to help you figure out the best way to do it.
Talk to your child(ren) together
At this point of your marital relationship obviously conversation with your spouse might be hard. But, talking to the kids together portrays a united front to your kids and shows that you’re committed to working together as their parents. It’s also equally important for your child(ren) to hear the news at the same time together from mom and dad; and not from the sibling that knew about it first.
If your kids are of different ages, decide on sharing the basic information with everybody together. Post that, you can have a private conversation with the older child(ren) if necessary. Or, if doing it together raises concern about conflict or safety, seek professional help in devising your plan.
A non-blaming narrative
Have a strategy that doesn’t blame either parent. You may want your child(ren) to know the “truth”. However, it can cause your child(ren) to feel caught in between, in a loyalty bind. The “truth” is less important than their mental health, and the reassurance they might require in this situation. Use the word “we” whilst explaining your decisions.
You do not have to provide specific details about why this is happening even though most kids will want to know the reason. Some might even press you to divulge the information to understand why their lives might change. Try to avoid the personal details, but be prepared to give them a general understanding of the situation without blame. Reassure them that the divorce isn’t their fault. Emphasise that they did not cause or can prevent what’s happening.
Your kids’ reactions are normal
The news may (or may not) be unexpected and will certainly change their lives. Understand that no reaction is also a reaction the same way you would if they were upset or angry. Some kids might have many questions. Some may not talk right away. Kids might not be able to express intense emotions right away. They’re probably overwhelmed and need some time to process it and express their feelings. Try to remain calm whilst talking to them, they will have less anxiety and might understand that they will be ok. That being said, it is absolutely fine for them to witness your emotions, which encourages them to be open with you as well.
It will take time for you and your child(ren) to adjust to this massive change. Whilst you remain confident in the future you envision for them, they might take longer to see how the future might play out. At getmeadivorce.com, we’re here to guide you every step of the way in case you decide to separate or divorce your spouse. Connect with us and get clarity on how you can take things forward. We’re here for you.