Not sure how to tell your kids that you’re getting a divorce? While it’s not a conversation anyone wants to have, following certain guidelines will help you break the news as gently and effectively as possible.
Rehearse what you’re going to say ahead of time.
If your spouse is MIA or if the conflict between you is so extreme that it would spill over onto the kids, you will have to go it alone. But ideally, you and your partner would come up with a “script” to deliver the news: that you tried hard to solve your problems but weren’t able to do that; because of this you are getting divorced and the kids will split their time between both households. Decide who says what, rehearse it a few times, and stick to the plan when you actually deliver the news.
Be a united front, even if you don’t feel like one.
No matter how you feel about your STBX, this is not the time to go rogue and give your kids your version of what went wrong. How you and your spouse behave together during this conversation will set the tone for your co-parenting relationship. You want to show your children that their needs trump whatever ill feelings you and your spouse have for each other.
Make sure you stress these two things.
A. Children are self-centered and will interpret the divorce as their fault, so assure them that it’s not, nor is it their job to fix grown-up problems.
B. Since you no longer love each other, children may fear that you’ll stop loving them too. Assure them this is not, nor will ever be, the case! Tell them that this will never change: you will always be their parents, and you will always love them.
Tell them what’s going to stay the same.
Help your kids adjust to the news by letting them know what will stay the same. Will they be attending the same school? Seeing the same friends? Sleeping in the same bed with the same stuffed animals? If they ask you a question that you can’t answer right now, tell them what you do know and give them a timeframe for figuring out the rest. For instance: “Mommy is going to stay in the house for awhile and Daddy will be moving to a new place where you will have your own room. We don’t know exactly where that is, but will let you know as soon as we do, probably in the next few weeks.
Be aware of non-verbal communication.
How you deliver the news is just as important as what you say. Remember: you are modeling how to handle adversity. If you look daggers at your spouse, breathe loud sighs of contempt, or dissolve into tears, your body language will carry far more weight than your words. Do whatever you can to get into the right emotional space before you break the news. You want to show your children how to handle adversity and conflict with dignity and resilience.
When you divorce and are a parent, safeguarding your children is your top priority. We understand. To discuss your concerns and get answers to your questions, please contact us to set up your initial consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys.