How Do I Tell Our Children About The Divorce?

This is a struggle for parents going through a divorce.  The parents, themselves are having to learn how to cope with this life changing event and often do not have a clue how they will break the news to the children.  You may be worried you will say the wrong thing and completely unsure of what is the best way to tell the children.

The way you talk with the children about the divorce is going to depend greatly on the children's ages and development.  Choose your timing wisely.  If you and your spouse have not made a decision about divorce or separation, keep it to yourselves until you are sure.  While you may think that complete honesty is the best policy, children do not need to know that mom and dad are just thinking about divorce.  That is going to just add to the child's sense of uncertainty and confusion especially if the you are able to reconcile.  Remember at all times keep the child's best interests in mind.

Although there is probably no "good time" to tell a child that his/her parents are divorcing.  There certainly are bad times.  Plan to do it on a day when you have plenty of time to talk through the child's feelings and questions.  Avoid doing it on a school day right before she gets on the bus or on a work day for you where you drop the bombshell and then have to run off to work and leave the child with the babysitter.  You do not want the child to be left in a situation where they feel isolated and alone after hearing this news.  Ideally, you will allow time for lots of hugs and reassurances after you break the news.

It is also best, if you can, to break the news together as a united parental front.  Regardless of you feelings for one another, you brought this child into the world and you will have to continue to work together regarding this child.  Even if you and your spouse disagree about everything else, try to come up with a way you can agree to tell the child for the child's sake.  It will help avoid confusion (the child will hear only one reason) and it conveys that this is a mutual decision.  It also will help you get off on the right foot for co-parenting in that the child will see that even though mom and dad are divorcing, they are still working together (somehow, children of divorce learn to play their parents against one another very quickly).

Keep things simple.  Remember your child is still a child and does not need to be burdened with intricate details of your life.  Avoid giving the children information that they do not need.  Explain who is moving out, where they are going and give the children reassurances that they will continue to see the parent who is moving.  Above all things constantly reassure the children that this is not their fault and that they are loved.  Never (never, never, ever) use this as a time to unload your emotional burdens on your child.  Avoid blaming or pointing fingers at the other spouse (i.e. "Dad is a cheater" or "Mommy is a liar.").

After the initial discussion, keep the door open for questions.  Use these times to acknowledge their feelings and offer support, but do not bring them into the middle of your litigation.  Children do not need to know when you are meeting with your attorney or about recent court filings.  If necessary, you might explore counseling with your child to help him cope.  You can also take advantage of other adults in the child's life to help such as school guidance counselors, youth pastors, and other close friends.  This is a very sensitive topic, if you have more questions, please contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

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