This article offers practical ways to talk with your children about your upcoming divorce
Set The Tone For The Future
You and your spouse have made the decision to end your marriage. How do you talk to children about divorce? With so many fears about the effects of divorce on children, the thought of discussing a divorce in your family can be stressful, but talking with your children about this tender subject is an opportunity. It's a chance to set the tone for the future... if done correctly.
Be Focused on Your Kids
There is only one thing to remember when its time to talk to children about divorce. Initiating a discussion with your children about an upcoming divorce isn't about the adults who are divorcing. It's about your children experiencing the divorce that they didn't ask for. Your focus should be on their needs. If possible, sit down together in a place where the children feel safe. Choose a time when they don't have to be anywhere so that they have time to process the news before facing the world.
Regardless of your feelings about the divorce, be positive. It's okay to admit that you are sad or anxious, but do not say negative things about your spouse. Children love both their parents and they shouldn't feel as though they have to take sides. Ideally, you should explain that both parents will continue to offer love and support. Be sure to make it very clear that the children are not to blame for your decision to divorce.
Younger children process things differently than older children, so keep the discussion at an age-appropriate level. When it's time to talk to children about divorce, provide them with the information they need to feel secure without overwhelming them with facts that they don't want or need. Children of all ages will need additional time to process the effects of divorce on their lives. Give them a little time and space to process the divorce.
The combination of divorce and children makes many people uncomfortable, so there is a tendency to fall back on platitudes. Children of divorcing parents are dealing with a lot of uncertainty. They need facts about how their lives will be affected. Instead of making generic promises, reassure them that you are thinking about their needs. Will they still live in the same house and attend the same school? Which parent will they stay with? How often will they get to see the other parent? Who will help them with their homework or attend their soccer games? It's okay to admit that you don't have everything figured out yet, but provide concrete answers when it is possible and appropriate.
When it comes to kids and divorce, be clear that you are still their parents and that you will be there for them. Help them understand that their family is changing, but it is still their family. Remember that how divorce affects children varies. They may pepper you with questions, respond with anger or seem to shrug the news off. Be available when they need to talk, but don't pressure your child to react in a certain way. Give them time and space to comprehend what is happening on their own terms.
Divorce is a major change, and change is often unsettling and scary for people of all ages. We hope these tips are helpful to talk to children about divorce. We understand how stressful divorce can be, so we always treat our clients with sensitivity and compassion.
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