If you are divorcing, you are likely dealing with many upheavals and stressful issues, seemingly all at once. When it comes to telling your child about the divorce, it's an easy task to put off. And you should put it off – at least until you know exactly what you're going to say and how to say it. Your concerns that the divorce could negatively affect them for their entire life could be justified, but just the fact that you acknowledge that means that you're on the right track. Read on for some tips that will help you identify what you want to say when the time comes.
1. Don't do this alone. While it may seem awkward, at first, both you and your spouse need to tell your child about the upcoming divorce together. Your child needs to see that both of you love them, will continue to be their parent and to see a demonstration of your hopes for a positive outcome. Try to plan for this talk prior to one spouse moving out, but not so far in advance that the child may forget or become confused.
2. Agree about the message. While it may seem obvious to you two, you may need to remind your child that your issues with each other have nothing to do with anything they did wrong. Children sometimes, inexplicably, feel that their behavior caused the break-up. Be as specific as possible about any changes, such as who will be moving out, who they will spend time with and when, and how their normal daily routines will remain much the same. For example, let your child know that they will keep the same bedtime, attend the same school, play the same sports, etc.
3. How to deliver the news. Make sure that you don't say that you no longer love each other. Children cannot understand the intricacies of adult feelings and may begin to worry about your love for them. Use age appropriate wording and try to put yourself in the place of your child. It may be helpful to think back to when you were the same age. During this event with your children, take care not to:
- Get into an argument
- Blame each other or discuss conflicts between you two.
- Get upset and show it by crying, yelling, etc.
4. Deal with their reactions. Your child may ask questions, so be prepared to answer as honestly and simply as possible, without delving into adult issues. You must plan in advance to answer the inevitable question: "why?" The real reason may be too adult oriented, so you must be on the same page when you say that you want to live apart. Be supportive of their reactions, and be ready for some issues to surface later on.
Divorce is tough on everyone, but by being kind to yourself and getting the support you need from a good family therapist and your divorce attorney, you and your child will weather this event and go on to a more positive future. Contact a firm like Taylor Bayona Law Firm to learn more.