As if divorce wasn’t difficult enough, if you have children, you bear the additional burden of sharing the decision with your kids. There are some best practices about how to broach and discuss the issue.
Choose Your Words
Even if you’re on bad terms with your spouse, try to come up with similar statements to introduce the issue. Â If you’re struggling to come up with the right words, consider scheduling an appointment with a therapists or even a religious advisor. Your words mean a lot, and you want both of you on the same page to limit confusion and hurt for the children. Although you and your spouse may be unable to agree on little else, for the sake of your children, try to find some common ground.
Keep It Neutral
Children will definitely ask questions, and in the initial shock they will push you on your decision. Limit any cutting comments about the other parent, or details they don’t need to know. For example, it’s best to avoid discussions of any indiscretions or what you view as “failings” by the other spouse. With your own heightened emotions, it can be difficult to remain emotionally in check, but a brief slip could make things worse for your kids. If you think both you and your spouse can manage to present this to kids together, this is a wise decision. Witnessing animosity between parents will only amplify the children’s upset feelings. Working together, even if it’s only for thirty minutes or so to present them with the news, might help set the tone for your interactions. If you are able to cooperate with your former spouse appropriately, you’ll limit the amount of disturbances in the lives of the children.
Be Honest- But Gently So
When you get pushback from the kids, be honest that it’s very unlikely things will change. The more calm and understanding you are about answering their questions appropriately, the less tension will exist between you and your kids, and also between you and your soon-to-be former spouse. Give them a heads up about some of the ways life will be different now. Beware that these are very difficult conversations and many kids will break down at this point. Don’t give them a laundry list of the overhaul that’s about to happen – just introduce a few changes. They’ll feel more in the loop and you won’t overwhelm them by taking a ride on an emotional rollercoaster.
Realizing that parents are splitting up can be difficult words for any child to hear. Something to reiterate and maintain as a theme throughout the divorce is that you love your children. There will be behavioral problems and possibly even acting out (or other problems that might be noticed by the kid’s school or other adults). It can be a tremendous challenge to help children adjust to this life, but your ability to connect with them and reinforce how much you care about them is critical.