The decision to dissolve a marriage is tough, but knowing how to tell your children about a divorce is often even more difficult.
Regardless of their age when it happens, divorce profoundly impacts children. How you handle the conversations with your kids surrounding your dissolution can make a significant difference for your family. Providing the children with information, reassurance, stability, and love should be a top priority.
You will likely feel strong emotions when you discuss your plans with your children, but you need to project a sense of calm, reassurance, and steadfastness. Understanding what your children can process at their stage of development and tailoring the presentation accordingly is key.
Many books and online articles address how to discuss divorce with your kids. If you have a counselor or therapist, or your children do, that professional can be an excellent source of guidance. Also, rely on your knowledge of your children—you know how they handle big news. Adapt the discussion to make it simple for them to understand but provide the information they need and answer their questions honestly.
When possible, the initial announcement should come from both parents together and include all the children. You and your spouse should rehearse the conversation beforehand and make sure you agree about how much you tell your kids. Even if it is hard to be in the same room together, showing your children you will work together to be the best parents you can, despite living apart, can go a long way toward relieving your children’s initial anxiety.
How much you reveal about the reasons for the divorce depends on the circumstances. “Mom and Dad are not happy together and have decided to live apart. Each of us will always love you no matter what,” is often all that needs saying at first. As the children process the situation and ask questions, you can fill in some details if appropriate.
Keeping the details to a minimum is usually the best policy, but kids have more awareness of what goes on around them than parents sometimes realize. For example, if they know you have been fighting, do not deny or sugarcoat it. Acknowledging that you and your spouse have been disagreeing, and that is part of why you decided to divorce is a better response.
Keeping to the high road is imperative when discussing the breakup and their other parent. Blame or badmouthing harms children and can impact their acceptance of the divorce and even their self-esteem. Children will always feel torn and often have trouble processing divided loyalties. Encouraging them to think ill of their other parent makes things much harder for them. Remember that your children love your spouse and support their relationship with them, even if doing so often requires you to bite your tongue.
It is best to tell your children you are divorcing when you know details like who will remain in the family home and where the other spouse will live. It will be easier for your children to cope with the news if they have certainty about these basics.
If possible, postpone the discussion until you and your spouse have worked out the fundamentals of custody, such as where the children will stay most of the time. The children often want to know about the other parent’s new home, whether they can stay in the same school, how the divorce might affect relationships with friends and extended family and similar questions.
If you and your spouse disagree on co-parenting issues, do your best to reassure the children that their needs are foremost. Help them understand that whatever happens, both their parents will be there to love and support them. Make sure they know that both parents will spend time with them whenever possible. Promise you will share more information with them as soon as you know it, then keep your word.
Deciding how to tell your kids about divorce is just one of many difficult decisions you will make as you dissolve your marriage. Seasoned legal counsel can help you navigate custody and visitation issues and reach an agreement that best supports your children’s well-being.
Divorce requires a strong support system that includes a capable attorney. Call the Atlanta Divorce Law Group today to speak with a Georgia divorce attorney.