Divorce in itself is difficult, but when you divorce and you have children it is heartbreaking. When you and your spouse decide to get a divorce you are going to have to talk to your children about it. The sooner you talk to them, the better. While you want to be transparent, you also want to be age appropriate and refrain from talking negatively about the other parent. It is an intricate dance, but the most important thing is helping the children get through it with as little emotional trauma as possible.
Make sure you are certain.
Before you tell the children, make absolutely certain that you and your spouse are moving forward with the divorce. Don’t put them through the emotional upset of telling them you are getting a divorce, only to reconcile a few days later. Many people react on emotions and it is not uncommon for a person to get angry or hurt and say they are leaving, they may even actually leave. However, once the emotions subside and they are rational again they don’t follow through. While that scenario is upsetting enough for children, saying you are going to divorce, only to change your mind later is worse. Wait a few days, get counseling, and talk with your spouse to make sure it is really what you both want to do before you get the children involved.
Discuss with your spouse what you will say.
Don’t sit down with the children until you and your spouse have discussed what you are going to say. This is not the time to harbor your own hurt feelings; it is time to think about your children. You and your spouse need to put your personal feelings aside and focus on the children. They are essentially victims in this. They often feel powerless, afraid, and sad so it is your job and your spouse’s job to help them through the divorce despite your personal feelings.
Tell them together.
If at all possible, sit down together and tell the children about the divorce. Reassure them that you both still love them and that you will do everything in your power to make sure they get to spend time with both of you. Present a united front and do everything you can to give them a sense of stability, security, and comfort.
Tell everyone as a family then talk to each child separately.
When you initially break the news of divorce to the children, do it as a family. Gather all the children together while you and your spouse tell them all at the same time. Afterwards it will likely be necessary to talk to each child individually to answer questions and reassure them. They need to know that their lives will change but you will do your best to minimize that change as much as possible.
Allow them to ask questions.
Leave the lines of communication open, allowing your children to ask questions about the divorce and what their lives will be like after. Keep the discussions age appropriate and avoid delving into adult topics. For instance, you don’t need to discuss child support with the children. That is a part of the divorce that is between the adults. Let the children be children. They have enough to worry about with the divorce, don’t add to it.
Expect a wide range of reactions.
Prepare yourself for many different emotions when you tell the children about your divorce. Different children react differently to the news that their parents are getting a divorce. Some may react in anger, others shock, some children may cry, and some may not react at all. Your children may also go through a variety of emotions. They may cry then get angry. You will see stages of grief as they come to terms with what is happening to their family.
Never, ever speak negatively about your ex.
No matter how upset or angry you are with your spouse, your children don’t need to be subjected to your feelings and opinions. That person is their parent and they love them. Let the children be children and don’t drag them into your adult situations. They don’t need to know that your spouse was unfaithful or that you feel they love their job more than they love you. All those children need to know is that both of their parents love them and will be there for them.
Even if one parent is absent, you will gain nothing by speaking negatively about them. All it will do is damage the children and it could backfire on you later. Parental alienation I wrong and it is damaging to the children.
Know that you will never really stop helping them and talking them through it.
Don’t think that you will talk to your children once or twice and you will be done. The conversations will likely go on for years. They may never stop until your children become adults. The way you handle the divorce, the questions, and how you interact with your ex will not only help your children adjust to the divorce, it will also help them later in life when they have relationships of their own.
Divorce is hard, but we can help. At Hart Legal we care about your case and what to help you and your family transition as easily as possible through this difficult time. Call us and make an appointment to speak to one of our caring, knowledgeable attorneys. We are here and we care.