Telling Your Children That You are Getting a Divorce
Children are incredibly intuitive and know when something is wrong at home. They have probably even heard of divorce from school friends, but that does not mean that they fully understand the concept of divorce or what it will mean for them. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, and you have minor children, you need to talk to them about what is going on now and what might happen down the road. You may want to protect your children from harsh truths, but children need honesty. When you are preparing to tell your children about the divorce, there are a few steps to take.
Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse
You and your spouse need to agree upon your attitude toward the situation and how you two will talk about it with your children. Know what you will tell them before you sit down. It is easy to be negative when a marriage is ending, but children need positivity and reassurance.
Tell the Teachers First
Lisa Herrick, Ph.D., encourages parents to tell their children’s teachers the day before they tell the kids. She mentions that the beginning of the weekend is a good time to tell your children about your plan because you have the rest of the weekend to be together and talk more about it. This means you may want to speak with the teachers on Friday. They can then be sensitive toward any changes in the children’s behavior in the following weeks.
Talk to Everyone at Once
Some parents use a divisive strategy. Maybe they tell the oldest children first, or they each tell a different child at a unique time. However, Kevin D. Arnold, Ph.D., points out that this can cause siblings to feel like they must keep secrets from one another. Arnold recommends gathering the whole family at once for the talk.
Prepare for Questions
Even young children will have a lot of questions about what comes next. They will be concerned about what will happen to them, and you need to be ready with answers. According to Herrick, common questions include:
- Is mom or dad leaving?
- Will we stay in the house?
- Can we go to mom’s or dad’s new house whenever we want?
Some questions will be emotionally difficult to answer, like “Do you not love each other anymore?” “Does mom or dad not want to live with us anymore?” Arnold recommends being honest even with painful questions. Also, reiterate to your children that they are loved and will always be cared for.
Children need to feel “safe.” They need to know that they are loved and they are cared for. Children need to know that nothing they did or didn’t do caused the separation or divorce. Parents should never communicate through the children and should keep details about each other between the adults. Put your children’s needs above your own during these times.
Prepare for Poor Behavior
When children are hurt or confused, it is common for them to act out. Be prepared for tantrums, crying, or even withdrawal. Each child will react differently to the news and you need to be prepared for how you will handle their reactions over the coming months.
Let Us Assist You with Your Case
Divorce is hard enough on spouses even without worrying about its effect on their children. The attorneys at the office of Derek L. Hall, PLLC in Jackson understand the emotional turmoil divorces cause and do their best to make the proceedings as quick and painless as possible. Reach out to us today for help.