After making the decision that divorce is the best thing for you and your spouse, you then face the dreaded task of telling your children. Visions of explosive tears, temper tantrums, and slammed doors may haunt you in the days leading up to your breaking news. While any or all of these reactions are reasonable to expect, there are some things you and your spouse can do to ease the blow for them, and in the following days.
Here are 6 things that you can do to ease the burden of divorce news on your children:
1) Tell your children together
Whenever possible, it is strongly encouraged that you sit down as a family unit and discuss the upcoming change to your family dynamic. Having both parents there, speaking calmly and openly about what’s ahead will show your children that even though you won’t be living together anymore, you and your spouse will always be there for them, especially during the rough transitional period.
2) Do not place blame on anyone or go into heavy detail
Inevitably the question of “why” will come up. While it’s ok to tell your children that you just aren’t getting along anymore, it’s not ok to point fingers or place blame on each other. From the moment you break the news of divorce to your children, their needs will come first. It is not in their best interest to be exposed to details that accompany adult issues, such as infidelity or dishonesty within your marriage. While you want to be honest about what’s happening to your family, you need to keep the information relayed at a G to PG level, at least in the very beginning.
3) Time your discussion
This is a big one. Once the decision to divorce has been made between you and your spouse, you may want to get the conversation with your children over with. But timing is everything. Plan a time when you and your family can sit down at home and talk without interruption. Do not have this conversation with your children before a mandatory activity. Your goal is to tell them in a space where they are comfortable letting out their emotions, and can enjoy the sanctuary of a safe space. Try and reserve a weekend day where there is nothing else planned to optimize the amount of time your child has to react in their home where they are most comfortable.
4) Tell them what to expect
If possible, spend some time with your spouse figuring out what the future will look like for the both of you and your children before you tell the kids. Preparing a game plan that includes when the children will see each parent, who is moving out, and who will take them and pick them up from school will go a LONG way in instilling comfort during an uncomfortable time. Children do best when their lives are stable. While divorce naturally disrupts that stability, having a “new normal” mapped out for your children will help them adjust to the changes much quicker.
5) Be prepared for their reaction
Even with preparation, it is nearly impossible to guess how your child may react. They may cry, be angry, or shut down altogether. It is very important that you allow them to express themselves fully without reprimand. If your child refuses to express themselves, give them time. It may be a good idea to schedule a few sessions with an experienced family therapist after breaking the news and during the transition period. Oftentimes children deal with divorce by acting out in school or at home. Try not to panic or be angry. Understand that hurt often manifests itself in destructive ways, especially in children who can’t fully express how they are feeling in words.
6) Be gentle with yourself
Breaking the news of divorce to your children can be nerve wracking and downright scary. It’s ok. You are all going through a period of change and its important that you nurture each unique stage of emotion—including your own. Don’t shy away from therapy for yourself. You will be trying to balance your own life changes and hurt in addition to nurturing your children, and trying to make a rough transition easier.
If you are considering divorce, or have made the decision and don’t know where to begin, the Hollwarth Law Firm can help. We focus on handling Texas family law matters with sensitivity and compassion, all the while walking you through the difficult parts with confidence.