Explaining divorce to your children can be an incredibly difficult thing, especially considering that in doing so, you’re likely breaking a lot of new personal ground. A slight majority of divorces involve people, who have at least one child, and it’s usually their first divorce, so on top of trying to figure out the process, you’re also having to manage your emotions as well as that of your child’s while being locked in opposition with the person closest to them.
It isn’t easy. No way.
But how can you explain divorce to your children, not in a way that takes away the pain, but in a way that enables them to process it? Here are some tips.
1. Do it together.
Explaining the divorce together keeps both of you honest and focused on the child instead of devolving into name calling and fights. When you take this approach, no matter what happens, you’re sort of holding your own feet to the fire to do right by your kids even if every fiber within you wants to verbally attack your spouse.
2. Establish one narrative.
You don’t want the talk to stray into a he said-she said sort of thing. You want your child to hear the same message from both of you at the same time. And no matter what the true reason for the divorce is, it’s important that you emphasize the issue is one between Mom and Dad. The child is not at fault.
3. Do it at home or some other place where the child feels comfortable to be himself.
This is a difficult thing for a child to process, so you want to make sure it’s done in a place — probably your home — where he can cry or have a meltdown without worrying about how other people might be judging him.
4. Talk to your kids far enough in advance so they can emotionally adjust.
Some, like the folks at the Care website, suggest giving the child “two-weeks’ notice,” prior to changing the living arrangements. Also, when discussing the change, make sure that you focus on the things that will be staying the same. Kids need the promise (and fulfillment) of some form of structure in order to process delicate information. By helping them understand what about their life WON’T change, you’ll be preparing them for the things that do.
What about the decision to explain divorce to your children troubles you the most? Sound off in the comments section.