If you’re wondering how to tell your kids about divorce, you’re probably aware that this might be the most difficult conversation you will ever have with your children.
Let’s face reality – it’s already been traumatic enough for you, and it will be traumatic for them too, no matter their age. You cannot escape it.
Your job now, is to break the news and help them make the adjustments as painlessly as possible.
Here are our top tips on how to break the news to your kids about your divorce.
Break The News Together
Don’t make each child face this alone. Siblings generally feel more secure together and rely on each other in their times of need. Stay calm. No anger – no arguments – no blaming.
If there concerns of safety or conflict, have a close friend present or relative that kids are comfortable with.
How Much Do You Tell Them?
Depending on age kids will probably be aware that things weren’t going well, so the news may not come as a total shock to them.
If young enough, do not overwhelm them with too much detail as to the reasons for the separation. All they need to know, is that you aren’t happy as a couple anymore, but that this does not change the fact that you love the kids dearly.
If your children are older, they will probably want to know why, and who did what. You should agree with your ex what you will say or how much information you should divulge.
Whatever you tell them, don’t lay blame – that will simply confuse the kids.
Once the initial shock subsides and reality sets in, they will ask is “now what?” Just be prepared.
Make sure you’ve made all the necessary plans before talking to them, right down to the finer details, such as “where will the dog live?” Some things that seem insignificant to parents can be critical for a child.
Try to give them as much information as is appropriate before they ask for it. They need to know where they will live, with whom, who’s leaving, who’s staying, will they see both parents whenever they want, etc.
All separations bring uncertainty and anxiety for everybody involved. Try to minimise that for the children as far as you possibly can, by reassuring them that you will still live as one family but just under two roofs. Nothing else changes!
Reassure your children that you both love them and never ask them who the better parent is. Do not discuss any legal or financial issues with your children. Never put them in the middle and never use them to “get at your ex” in any way. Kids work most things out themselves eventually and they will never forget.
Dealing With Reactions
There will be a reaction – and you should be prepared for all kinds of emotions.
Each child reacts differently to news such as divorce, depending on their age, maturity and character. They may cry, get angry, or may pretend all is cool and show no emotion. Don’t be fooled – this is a reaction and is perfectly normal.
Over the next few months, look out for signs of anxiety. Crying over minor issues, becoming clinging, displaying anger, change in sleeping pattern, or shut down are all potential reactions. Give them the time and space to adjust.
Kids are often more resilient than we give them credit for and time heals everything (or, at least, it dulls the pain) – some may even adjust quicker than you. All you need to do is reassure them that all will be fine, by stating what will stay the same. Schooling, sporting activities, friends all remain the same. If mature enough, ask them for any suggestions on how you can help them cope with this news so they feel part of this life-changing process.
Look After Yourself
Do not forget your own healing and recovery is most important too. You cannot afford to fall apart. It’s a bit like the oxygen masks on aircraft – you can’t help someone else if you haven’t helped yourself. As in all crises, focus on the moment and what is in front of you. Just remember, you are not the first or the last to go through this.
No matter how challenging your situation may seem, thousands of people are going through it under more difficult circumstances than you can imagine. So stop worrying how to tell your kids about divorce and make a plan – You can do this!
If you need help with moving on from your divorce, divorce mediation can help you do this. Mediation is much quicker than dragging your divorce through the courts and always more affordable than expensive family lawyers.