One of the hardest parts of any divorce is navigating the situation around children. You want your children to be okay and they will be if you make their stability and happiness a priority. Dealing with divorce as a family begins with breaking the news. You should tell your children about your decision to divorce as soon as you’re sure this is what’s going to happen. They can sense the tension in the home and they’ll feel better when they know what’s going on, and what to expect.
Make it a Family Discussion
If at all possible, breaking the news about divorce is something that you and your spouse should do together. This will show your children that you’re both on the same page and that you’re both going to be there for them. You and your spouse should practice the conversation ahead of time and be prepared to stay calm throughout. Make decisions about living arrangements and family dynamics before sitting down with your children so that you’ll be prepared with a plan that will make them feel secure.
It is very common for children to blame themselves for their parent’s divorce, even when parents are clear that it’s not their fault. Parents should be prepared to let their children know that this situation is not their fault and then reiterate this point on a continual basis. Laying blame on one spouse or the other won’t help either. Children shouldn’t have to choose sides, or hear every detail of the contention between parents. Give the simplest, age appropriate reason for the divorce as possible. For young children, something like, “Mommy and Daddy need to live apart, so that we can get along and take better care of you,” is all you need to say. For older children, especially teens, more explanation may be in order, but you should still try to keep it as streamlined as possible, without laying blame.
Be Prepared for Questions
Your children are going to have questions about your divorce, and you need to be prepared to answer them. Being open and honest and providing them with the information they’re seeking will give them a sense of control and security. Some of the questions that children commonly ask include:
- Where will I live?
- Where will you live?
- Where will I go for holidays?
- Do I have to switch schools?
- How will my schedule change?
- Can I still (insert activity)? This will include questions about spending time with friends, playing sports, etc.
- When will I get to see you? (Have a plan for your child to spend plenty of time with each parent.)
By answering these questions and then being consistent with your child care plans, your children will come to see that their new family dynamic is still one of love and security.