Divorce is a complicated and emotional time. No matter what feelings you have toward your former spouse, you want what’s best for your kids. How you talk to them about the divorce plays an important part in helping them cope with it.
Begin talking to your children about two to three weeks before your separation, and do your best to break the news gently. Here are some tips for smoothly communicating your divorce to your child:
Talk to your children as a couple, if possible, and try to do so without getting angry with each other. This can convey a unified sense of caring to the child, and help them feel more comfortable with the idea.
Set up a time to talk on the weekend, when you will be with your child for a length of time after the talk. You want to make sure there is time for them to think things through a bit, and come back to talk with you more, share their thoughts and feelings, and ask any questions they have.
Tell your children’s teachers about the divorce the day before you tell your kids, and ask that they be discreet until you have the talk. This helps prepare the teachers for any changes in behavior.
Keep the messaging focused. Repeat certain statements during the conversation and bring them up again in subsequent talks. Emphasize to the kids that the decision to divorce was made after a lot of thought and discussion, and that it has nothing to do with them.
Make sure the children understand that it’s OK for them to continue loving each parent fully, without fear of betraying anyone. You may also need to reassure them that your love for the child hasn’t changed in any way, and will not change in the future.
Talk to them about feelings and reassure them that experiencing a lot of different emotions — sadness, anger, worry, and uncertainty — is normal. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, but never badger them to talk if they don’t want to.
Emphasize that everyone is still a family, but things are changing. Reassure the children that they will still see both parents regularly, even though one is moving away.Explain the plan. Who will stay in the house and who is moving and where? Talk about the schedule for seeing both parents, and how you might handle holidays and special events. Allow them to be part of this discussion.
After you talk to your kids about the changes that are happening, be prepared for any kind of reaction, and take the time to help them work thorough it. Let them know that you and your spouse are there for them. However, never force kids to talk about their emotions until they’re ready.
By speaking to your kids openly and honestly about your divorce and all the emotions around these big changes, you’re creating a safe space for them to deal with their feelings about these changes.