Filing for divorce is one of the toughest decisions a person ever has to make.
If you have children, discussing your decision with them can make it even harder.
It is understandable to feel anxious or uncomfortable when the time comes to have this talk with your children.
This conversation is just the beginning of working through the divorce process with your children. This is an emotionally challenging time for everyone involved.
Sometimes we unintentionally tell our kids things without considering how what we say might impact their well-being.
Here are some mistakes to avoid when telling your kids about divorce.
DON’T ASK YOUR CHILDREN TO CHOOSE SIDES IN YOUR DIVORCE
Let them know your divorce is not about blame but about making a positive change in your lives. Avoid sharing details about your relationship with your spouse in order to manipulate your children into taking your side.
You should always stress that there really are no ‘sides to take’ because this is a joint decision made together by you & your spouse.
DON’T ALLOW YOUR CHILDREN TO FEEL LIKE THE DIVORCE IS THEIR FAULT
Sometimes children internalize situations and blame themselves for outcomes over which they have no control.
Emphasize to them that your decision to divorce has nothing to do with anything they might have done. It is natural for children to blame themselves and feel like the divorce is their fault, so actively talk with them about this issue to ensure that they don’t feel this way.
DON’T TREAT CHILDREN LIKE SMALL ADULTS DURING YOUR DIVORCE
Use age-appropriate language when discussing the divorce with your kids. Avoid using your children as confidants and unloading your complaints about your spouse on them.
Don’t make them assume adult responsibilities that you shared with your spouse (managing the household, parenting younger siblings, worrying about budgets and money, etc…).
Even if your child seems very mature and wants to be involved, kindly tell them that it is just not appropriate for them to be involved.
DON’T FORGET TO REASSURE CHILDREN YOU WILL PROVIDE FOR THEIR NEEDS AFTER THE DIVORCE
Answer your children’s questions in a matter-of-fact manner that makes them feel safe.
Let them know that while some things will change because of the divorce (your spouse will live somewhere else and when they will see them will change) other things will stay the same (like how much you love them).
DON’T NEGLECT TO TELL YOUR KIDS BOTH THEIR PARENTS WILL REMAIN THEIR PARENTS AFTER THE DIVORCE
Let them know that both their parents will remain involved in their lives after the divorce. Reassure them that you won’t be an obstacle to their access to the other parent. They need to hear this from both parents, and need to feel like both parents agree on that.
Telling your children that you are getting a divorce is a very difficult conversation.
Approaching this discussion in a child-centered, blame-free manner will help your children accept your decision. They will come through the divorce feeling secure and able to handle change.