Divorce is often very traumatic for children, especially when they are old enough to understand the changes that divorce will entail .As a parent, you can take certain steps to make the process less painful on your children.
Tips on how to approach your children about divorce:
- Have both parents present when discussing the divorce so your children know that you are still a team when it comes to parenting.
- Keep the message simple by telling your child that mommy and daddy can't live together and will be happier as a result of this decision - while repeating that it's not your child's fault.
- Show them love and support - Be sure to say "I love you," and to tell your children that while parents get divorced from each other, they do not divorce their children. Let them know you will still be caring for them from fixing their breakfast to helping them with their homework and taking them to dance or karate classes.
- Tell your children's teachers so they can monitor how the child is reacting in school.
When it comes to "the dreaded conversation" where parents have to sit down with their kids and tell them that they are getting a divorce, a lot of parents freeze up. You and your spouse can make this conversation easier by preparing significantly before sitting down for the talk.
Preparing for Your Child's Reaction
Prior to this meeting with the children, think about what questions will come up and prepare your answers ahead of time.
Here are some questions to anticipate from the kids:
- Where will we live?
- Who will take us to school?
- Do we have to move?
- Who will we live with?
- Will you remarry?
- Is this my fault?
- Do I have to change schools?
- Will you both have to work?
- Are you divorcing because of me?
- Why are you getting divorced?
- Do I get to keep my pets?
- Why can't you just work it out?
As difficult as this major change is on you, try to be empathetic towards the children and understand that these are big changes for them too. Give your children the benefit of an honest, but kid-friendly explanation. If your spouse had an affair or cheated on you, it is not in your children's best interests to share this aspect with them. It's best to pick simple, yet honest reasons such as "We can't get along anymore."
When your children ask about changes in their lives, acknowledge that while some things will be different now, other things won't change. You and your children will be dealing with details as you go along and before you know it, you will adjust to a new routine.
Don't Play the Blame Game
If your spouse has cheated on you, or squandered your savings on gambling or drinking, it can be very difficult not to be hurt and angry, but for the sake of your kids, avoid being critical and blaming your spouse. Sometimes taking the high road and avoiding the blame game is the best way to protect your kids from a painful divorce.
- As much as you can, present a united front.
- Don't argue with your spouse in front of the kids or over the phone.
- No matter how bad the truth is, be respectful of your spouse when giving your children a reason for the divorce.
Remember that conflict between parents can be very emotionally damaging for children. For this reason, it's critical that you avoid fighting in front of your children, or making them feel as if they have to choose between the two of you. If you feel an argument coming on, either take it somewhere else, ask your spouse to talk about it another time, or drop the conversation altogether.
Some children handle divorce relatively well, while others experience a wide range of difficult emotions. Remember that kids can be resilient and that love, understanding, and reassurance can go a long way.