As if getting a divorce isn’t hard enough already, now you have to break the news to your children. (That title was just to get your attention – obviously, you should NEVER tell your children about your pending divorce in that way!)
But in all seriousness, for some parents, the prospect of breaking the news to their kids can be one of the hardest aspects of dealing with a divorce. However, while no one is ever going to enjoy this talk, there are certainly things you can do to make it less stressful and painful for everyone involved. Here are our best tips to help with the process of sharing this difficult news with your children.
Timing is everything:
It is important that you choose a time to discuss this when you don’t have a time limit, which would cause the conversation to be rushed and abrupt. Your kids will need time to hear you out and then ask questions. Sometimes the questions will come immediately, and sometimes they can take hours or even days to process fully before they are ready to re-approach the issue. Pick a time when you have no other looming commitments, and when you know you will be around afterwards, so that they aren’t alone while they work through the shock and the sorrow.
The perfect place:
Another very important aspect of approaching this difficult subject with your kids is to make sure that you are in the right place when you do it. Your child may cry or shout, or simply need time to process it alone for a while, so your home is the best place. This way, your kids are in their comfort zone already, and have the freedom to go to their rooms and shut the door if they need to, or cry without attracting the stares of strangers. Never try to have this talk in a restaurant, at a friend’s home, or in any public place.
It is critical, after it has been explained to your children what you and your spouse have decided to do, that you be available to ask and answer questions. You need to be prepared to talk, without anger, guilt or frustration, about what is happening – the whys and whens and whos are going to be very important. Discuss with your child how they feel about it, and be willing, within reason, to discuss with them how you feel about it. Be honest, and encourage them to share openly with you, regardless of how painful it may seem at the time – this is very important for setting the stage for a child’s future acceptance of the situation.
Together is better:
While you and your spouse may have difficulty having a civil discussion with each other, if it is at all possible to address this with your kids when you are together, then do it. By being together when you tell your children, you help to show your children that, even though your marriage is ending, your united love for them is not. It also helps your kids if they only have to go through this discussion once, and can get all of the initial issues out of the way without having to do it all over again with the second parent.
Brandy Thompson, who has helped many people through their divorces over the years, says that every family is different. “I am frequently asked by clients how they should break the news to the children. Ultimately, I can give some general advice, but as a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. You know the most appropriate time, place and manner in which to explain to your child this difficult process. It may not be easy, but trust your instincts as their parent.”
We know this topic is particularly hard for parents, and so we hope this first segment was helpful for you. In the next segment, we’ll be looking at the other half of the list and discussing a few more helpful pointers. Until then, if you or a loved one need help with your divorce, your custody agreement, or any other legal aspect of your family life, we are here to help. Our skilled and experienced family law attorneys have spent decades helping the people of mid-Michigan prepare for their futures, and we can help you too. Call 866 766 5245 to speak with a compassionate and hard working family law attorney today.