Divorce is a hard enough reality to accept for yourself, let alone having to admit it to your children. However, how your children hear about your divorce affects how they handle it. If you apply the following approach, you can keep communication open and help your children accept the changes.
Tell the entire family at once
It’s best to talk about divorce with the entire family present, including your spouse if he or she is still around and anyone else living with you whom the divorce will affect. Pick a time when everyone is home and there is no rush to be elsewhere. This ensures everyone receives the same information at the same time. It also allows for family discussion and support as you address the changes that will occur.
Be honest but age appropriate
Naturally, your children may have questions concerning the divorce, even if they are aware of your marital problems. The questions they may ask will depend on their ages, but some common questions are:
- Is it my fault?
- Can parents divorce their children?
- Where will I live?
- Why can’t you fix the problem?
Be honest in your answers, keeping in mind the ages and maturity of your children. You don’t need to go into detail, but be clear to avoid misinterpretation.
Reassure your children you love them
Many children blame themselves for their parents’ divorce, believing if they had been better, the dissolution wouldn’t be happening. This can be even truer for those who perceive themselves as burdens to or sources of conflict for their parents, such as children with health problems or behavioral issues.
Children also may fear that because you stopped loving your spouse, you may stop loving them, too. It’s important that you debunk these myths. Your kids need to know they are not responsible for the divorce and that you love them and nothing will change that. Repeat these truths throughout the divorce and afterward.
Use professional resources
As much as you’d like to, you won’t have all the answers or tools to assist your children. Utilize professional resources to help navigate this experience. If your spouse is cooperative, resolve your divorce through a mediator to make the process as agreeable, inexpensive and quick as possible. No matter how you divorce, counseling can help your children have a safe place to express their feelings. It can also help you answer your children’s questions and handle any problems that arise. You don’t need to do this alone; reach out for the best resource for your family.