Embarking on the challenging journey of telling your children about your decision to divorce is a pivotal moment that requires utmost sensitivity and care. As parents about to divorce, it is essential to approach this conversation with empathy and a clear understanding of the emotional impact it may have on your children.
Honesty is key
First, being honest with your children is the most important aspect of the conversation. Yes-it will probably be uncomfortable, but children need to know the truth and often sense when their parents are not being honest with them, which makes them feel unsafe, and sometimes, lose trust in their parents.
Consider their age
While honesty is critical, you must consider their age and maturity level. For example, if your child is a toddler, the type of conversation you will have with them differs from the conversation you will have with a teenager. Older children need reassurance that you love them and that both parents will continue to love them and be with them, no matter what.
It is very common for children to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. It is critical that you tell them, as clearly as possible and as many times as necessary, that your decision to divorce has nothing to do with them, and that divorce is a part of life in certain families.
Create a picture of the future
One of the best ways to end the conversation with your children is to give them a detailed mental picture of what their future will look like. Be prepared to answer questions and to explain to them, step by step, what will happen. For example, if one parent is moving out of the family home, ensure you tell them when it will happen, where the parent is going, and what that move means.
Give them hope
For every piece of bad news, try to reassure them with another piece of good news. For example, if you are discussing the moving out part, tell them you will now give them cell phones so they can speak with the other parent when they are not in the same physical space.
Divorce is a difficult subject to address with children and there is no way around the awkwardness and pain that comes with having those conversations. However, there are ways to plan strategically how you will communicate with your children so you can mitigate the damage as much as possible.
Remember, divorce will hurt, but pain is also a part of life, and there is no realistic way of shielding children from pain forever. It is alright to feel the pain, to express to them you also feel sad, and that together, you will support each other as a family, albeit an unconventional family, to heal and become stronger.