Divorce is the most entangled and emotional when children are involved. Not only do the spouses have to negotiate over material assets, they must contend with the very personal decisions regarding child custody. Divorcing couples with children also have to find ways to help their children cope with the divorce during and after the process.
The divorce process starts for children the moment they’re told that it’s happening. So, consider very carefully what you’re going to say and where you’re going to say it when making the announcement. The more balanced your approach, the more you can help your children get through it as smoothly as possible, given the circumstances.
Snapshot in Time
For better or worse, the moment children hear that their parents are getting divorced is a memory that stays with them. So, bear that in mind when deciding where to tell them, and do take time to contemplate the setting. When choosing a location, there are two characteristics to consider.
Start by considering places that aren’t too public. News that significant can cause elevated, unexpected emotions and children need a safe place to express themselves.
Second, choose a location away from home so the children won’t associate where they live with the memory of receiving the news. It’s a difficult balance of priorities, so it can be equally difficult to pinpoint the right spot. Ideas might include a counselor’s office or relative’s home. When deciding where to tell your children that you’re getting a divorce, don’t underestimate the power of the news you will be delivering or the length of time they’ll need to process it.
Write it Down
The initial conversation you will be having with your children about the divorce should not be off-the-cuff and spontaneous. You’ll probably be experiencing intense emotions right along with your children, and in order to help you keep your cool and get them through it, you need to be prepared. Write down the main points, so you don’t forget anything significant. But, keep it short.
The news will already be overwhelming to the kids. They don’t need to be further burdened by information that is unnecessary at the time, so balance plays a role here, as it does in your decision about where to tell them. Leave plenty of time for questions and emotion, but don’t leave out what matters most. Include the following information and answer these questions when planning what to say:
• Are we moving? Is mom/dad moving?
• Which parent will we live with? Are we still a family?
• Explain that it is not their fault and they are still loved
• Assure them that their needs will be met
• Make them feel confident that they can come to you with questions anytime
The list is fairly short and simple, but it’s also an important tool that will allow you to provide your children with the answers and assurance they need. By preparing the list ahead of time you will have more confidence in the process, too.
Telling your kids that you are divorcing is not going to be easy on you or them. Preparing what you plan to say and choosing the location carefully, however, will help give you the balance you need and ease the burden for all of you.