Talking to your children about your decision to divorce can be a challenging and emotional process. But it is also a critical one. This is going to be a major change in their lives, and they will likely have a lot of questions. Conversations that are thoughtful and transparent (to an age-appropriate extent) are necessary and beneficial for all.
As a parent, your goal is likely to help this process go smoothly for the children, focusing on stability and support. The conversations you have from the very beginning set the stage for how this major transition is going to unfold. Below are a few helpful tips to keep in mind as you provide support to your children and talk about how life is going to change.
Seek out a time when you can have an uninterrupted conversation with all of the kids together. Find a time when both you and your ex can be present, if possible, to provide a united front and answer questions together. Choose a place where the children feel comfortable and at ease.
Be honest when it is age-appropriate
Focus on explanations that are age-appropriate, while telling the truth. Older children may want more details about what happened and why, whereas younger children could be fine with simpler explanations and do not need so many details. Either way, be honest without placing blame. Stress that the divorce is in no way the children’s fault and that you and your ex both still love them.
Allow your children to express their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to bring up important questions or talk about their concerns. Listen without taking offense or interrupting. Sometimes, children just need to be heard.
Reassure them regarding stability
Let your children know about the practical aspects of their lives that will remain stable, such as where they will live, where they go to school and what daily routines they have. They may have concerns about who will take care of them. If you plan to share custody, reassure them by noting that each of you will be around and that you’ll still be their parents – you just won’t be married to each other. This sense of stability can make things much easier for children to cope with on an emotional level.
Remember that every child is unique, and their reactions to divorce will vary. It’s essential to be patient, understanding and supportive as they process their emotions and adjust to the changes in their family structure. At the same time, consider the legal steps you can take to focus on your children and put their needs first, while dividing parenting time, decision-making power and the like.