If you are a parent who is contemplating or who is in the throes of divorce, you might be wondering what to tell the kids and when.
While parents’ divorcing affects even their adult children, it’s usually minor children who experience the most stress from the event.
Even if the kids are aware of ongoing conflict between you and your spouse, it’s best not to tell them about the divorce until it’s a certainty. Then, if at all possible given the circumstances, it’s better to break the news to them together. This avoids the “kill the messenger” scenario where one parent is perceived to be at fault and the other is given a pass.
Don’t break down, show anger or cast blame as you explain. Try to keep the announcement simple and age-appropriate. However, be prepared to answer their questions.
The message from both parents should focus on the trouble being between the two adults and not have anything to do with the kids or their behavior. It’s common for children to internalize the blame and think that Mom and Dad are divorcing because they have been “bad.”
Reassure them that even though adults can fall out of love with one another and split up, parents’ love for their children never wanes.
While it’s important to be truthful and allow the kids to have a chance to absorb what will become the new normal for them, like having to move or change schools, parents should never discuss the private reasons for the divorce, e.g., Daddy has a new girlfriend, Mommy’s gambling problem has gotten out of hand, etc.
Discussing upcoming changes is vital, as is reminding kids of all of the things that will stay the same. Children are egocentric regarding the ways of the world and may focus their concerns on how the divorce will affect them. If the boys liked to go hunting or fishing with Daddy, or if Mommy came to all of her daughter’s swim meets, reassure them that will continue.
Tweens and teens are going to be savvier. They may not only have suspected a divorce was in the works. They may be wiser than you know about the reasons behind it.
Divorcing parents should seek out legal counsel and other professional guidance to help them get through these stressful times.
Source: Kids Health, “Helping Your Child Through a Divorce,” accessed May 05, 2017