Every parent needs to understand that a divorce is the end of the marital relationship, but is not an end to the co-parenting relationship. Parents need to come together, put their pain and anger aside, and work together to assure their children that they are still loved and will continue to be loved despite the inevitable changes occasioned by the end of the marriage. Here are some suggestions surrounding telling your children about divorce:
- Do it together. When both parents come together to tell their children about the divorce and answer questions, it helps to alleviate the fear that one parent is going to disappear.
- Make your comments age appropriate and limited as to the reasons for the divorce. Children do not need to know that daddy has a girlfriend or that mommy spends too much money. Tell the children the facts they need to know and leave the reasons for the divorce out. Further, while you may think a teenager can handle the truth, there is no need to include information that will damage a child’s respect or affection for one parent.
- Do not ask the children to take sides and do not convey emotion that reflects a desire for you to have them on your side.
- Assure your children that both parents love them and that the divorce is not as a result of anything they did or did not do.
- Let the children express their emotions, but try to keep yours in check. Your children need to feel emotionally safe and know that they can grieve. This is not a time for you to lean on your children for emotional support. Also, be prepared if your child does not think this is a big deal and do not try to force your children to be upset if they are not.
- Answer questions about what will happen next, who will live where, and how things will change in the future, even if the answer is “I am not sure.” Do not say that nothing will change, because it will, but let your children know that everyone will be dealing with changes and you will all work together to make the transitions smooth.
- Let your children know that you will continue to co-parent and continue to be a part of their lives. Then, do just that.
Research shows that it is not the divorce itself that hasa negative impact on children, but the conflict between the parents. Keep the children out of the conflict by not arguing in their presence, not passing messages to each other through the children, and not speaking ill of the other parent in the presence of the children.