Are you wondering how to talk to kids about divorce?
Talking to kids about divorce can be hard, but here are several things to remember when telling the kids that Mom and Dad are getting divorced.
Telling the kids their parents are getting a divorce is no one’s idea of a good time. Divorce is painful at any age, but there are ways to handle the initial conversation to make things easier on the children.
Things to Do Before you Talk to Kids About Divorce
As painful as it is, parents need to prepare themselves about their impending separation.
Sit down with the other parent and work out a temporary parenting plan. Whichever parent is moving out needs to have particular days and times set aside when he/she will see the children. Don’t wait for the courts or the mediators to work this out – even if it is temporary, it is vital for the child’s peace of mind to have an idea of what will happen in the days and weeks to come.
If a new residence has been established, make sure the new address and phone number are written down ahead of time. Give each child a copy of this information at the family meeting.
Agree on some ground rules with the other parent. It is important (if safe and possible) parents present a united front for the children. The marriage may be over, but it is important for the children to view the parents as a team, still working in their best interest.
Try and make sure the announcement does not occur on or around a major holiday or birthday. Christmas may be ruined forever if the child comes to associate it with the divorce.
A Family Meeting to Discuss Divorce
If at all possible, both parents should attend the family meeting to discuss the impending divorce. If the children are young, give just a few minutes warning before the meeting – too much time and it may create anxiety in the children. If the children are older, give them just enough time to clear their schedule. It is likely they may already suspect the reason for the meeting, but again, too much anticipation will only create anxiety. Things to remember in the family meeting:
How to talk to kids about divorce
- Set aside a full hour to explain the reasons for the divorce, and to address any concerns the children may have.
- Let the children know that both parents love them very much.
- Have the calendar on hand to discuss the new schedule with the children. Make sure to have concrete days and times for when they will see the parent who is moving out.
- Be honest.
- Don’t be too specific about details. Children don’t need to know who did what to whom.
- Let them know that the divorce has nothing to do with them. It is just between Mom and Dad.
How to talk to kids about divorce – After the Divorce Announcement
Make sure the kids know there is an open-door policy when it comes to talking to either parent about the divorce. They should feel free to talk about their feelings as much (or as little) as they’d like. Whatever time commitments have been made, they should be honoured. The children will be anxious and vigilant during the first few weeks following the announcement, and both parents should do everything in their power to ease those negative feelings. Don’t let the kids down – they are looking for guidance and structure.
With some ground rules in place for behaviour, and a concrete schedule in place for visitation, the divorce talk should address each child’s most pressing concerns. It may not be easy, but as the first step on the road to a new life, it should be handled with careful thought and foresight.