The decision to move forward with divorce is never easy, especially if children are involved. Understanding how to tell your child about your divorce and offering them additional support is crucial to easing the transition.
No matter the age of your child or children, they should hear the news from you first. Putting off the conversation will only hurt them more. While everyone approaches the subject of divorce or separation differently, there are key factors to take into consideration when sitting down with your child to share the news.
Have a Plan
Knowing when to tell your child about your divorce is just as important as how you tell them. Timing is everything. Childcare experts recommend setting aside time on a day where all family members can be present. Parents should avoid mentioning the discussion on holidays or other special events and occasions, including before school or extra-curricular activities.
In addition to deciding on the when, parents must also decide what information they would like to share. Honesty is key. However, children do not need to know every single detail. What they do need to know are the basics.
- Why is this happening?
- Which parent is moving out?
- Where will the child live and with whom?
- How often will they see the other parent?
The answers to some of these questions may not be clear at the time, and parents should be prepared to explain why. If both parents cannot agree on how to tell their child about their divorce, it may be helpful to seek the help and guidance of a licensed mediator.
Tell Your Child About Your Divorce Together
Once spouses decide to move forward with a divorce, they may struggle to talk to one another, let alone be in the same room. Negative feelings, especially if the marriage is ending on poor terms, make it increasingly difficult to maintain an amicable relationship. However, if it is possible, both parents should aim to talk to their child or children together. The presence of both parents helps to reassure the child they are still loved and supported.
Give Them Time to Adjust
Divorce or separation can be a big adjustment for all those involved. Depending on the child’s age, they may not fully comprehend what divorce means and just how much it impacts their life. Give them the time and space they need. All the while, it’s important to constantly reassure them that they are still loved and that they are not to blame for the situation. Offer to be there for them and to answer any of their questions.
After Telling Your Child About the Divorce – Stay Calm
The most important thing to remember is stay calm. If your child reacts negatively to your news, know that is normal. Even if the conversation turns negative, try your best to speak in an even tone.
Once your children are aware of the divorce, it is important not to discuss details about the divorce with them. The exception is having discussions about when or how parenting time schedules will operate. Parents should deliver these details in “age appropriate” ways. This means how you have this conversation depends on the age and maturity of your kids.
Keep Conflict Minimal
Most crucial is that parents need to refrain from saying anything negative about the other parent in front of the children, or within earshot. Children go on “high alert” once they know there is on ongoing conflict with their parents, and thus they are very perceptive of tension.
Exposing the children to that conflict is often what makes divorce emotionally traumatizing on children, much more so than the actual transition of seeing their parents live separately. Children are resilient and can generally adjust to parenting schedules quickly, but a seamless transition happens where the parents are on the same page about keeping things amicable between them during the divorce process.
Whether it’s moving to a new home, deciding how to manage a parenting schedule for your children, or taking a hard look at the finances needed to run two homes instead of one, divorce can be scary and challenging. That’s why it’s important to seek the help of an experienced attorney. Kristen Strieker aims to move you through this difficult transition with less stress, less exhaustion of your resources and less animosity. Contact Strieker Law Firm today to discuss your next steps.