Today, we’ll be continuing our discussion about the divorce “talk.” This is the challenge that parents face when telling their kids they are divorcing or separating. Because this news can be devastating to children, it is important to carefully plan how and when to have the conversation in order to minimize harm and maximize support.
Our last post focused on when to have the talk, who should break the news and under what circumstances the discussion should take place. In today’s post, we’ll discuss what should be said (or left unsaid) and how to prepare for your children’s reactions and next steps.
Even if you and your spouse choose the right time and circumstances to break the news to your kids, you still need to be careful about what you say and what you leave out. If possible, both parents should be breaking the news together, and you should avoid blame or hurtful details your kids don’t need to know. Especially with younger children, you can say something general like “the marriage is not working, so we’re going to make a change that we hope will be best for everyone.” Instead of focusing on why the divorce is happening, focus instead on what it will practically mean for them.
Once the news is out, be prepared for however your children will respond. This may sound cliché, but it’s probable that your children will somehow think the divorce is their fault. They should be reminded often and emphatically that they are in no way to blame.
Remember that kids may not respond right away or they may change their response over time as they process what is happening. They have a right to feel however they feel, and perhaps the best thing you can do is to be there to help them through whatever they are experiencing.
Finally, it’s time to focus on next steps. Breaking the basic news to other adults in your children’s lives can help them be extra sources of support. This could include teachers, daycare providers, friends and relatives.
Even under the best circumstances, this is not an easy conversation to have. Children will almost certainly have at least some negative reactions. If you do your best to follow the guidelines in this week’s posts, however, your children will likely have a much easier time accepting this difficult news.
Source: The Huffington Post, “How To Divorce: 5 Best Practices For Telling The Kids You’re Separating,” Alyson Schafer, May 6, 2015