When you are getting a divorce, if you have children the split will be that much harder. It doesn’t matter if your children are adults and living their own lives, teens who act like they don’t care, or toddlers who don’t quite understand what’s happening. Divorce is brutal, challenging, and it creates emotions – in children especially – that they may not have expected and, frankly, may not be prepared to cope with.
When you break the divorce news to your kids – a conversation that all of you will vividly remember for the rest of your lives – keep these things in mind:
1. Pull yourself together.
You don’t have to pretend to your children that everything is a-ok when you tell them that their parents are splitting up, but don’t approach them when you’re feeling especially weepy or angry so that they don’t feel the burden of your emotions. This isn’t to say you should be a robot and not cry at all – it’s perfectly fine for your kids to realize that you are affected by this change. And your children will take their cues from you – strength is good, stoicism is inadvisable.
2. Accept their response.
Let your children know they have permission to feel their feelings. They can be mad at you or mad at your partner. They can be sad. Emotionless. They may want to talk. They may have nothing to say. Emotions can go in any direction. You have to expect that your child may not react as you anticipated. Know that there is no right way to respond to this brutal news. And all you can do is be patient and understanding.
3. Reinforce that your divorce has nothing to do with your kids.
It is a natural reaction for children to blame themselves when their parents split up. Reinforce to your children that they are not at fault for what is happening in your relationship. They will be affected by the divorce, but it is not occurring because of them.
4. Don’t give them all the details.
Depending on the ages of your children, they may have more questions or fewer questions about your divorce. Be honest, but remember that they don’t need to know all the dirty details, especially very young children, and especially if infidelity or other problems are part of the split.
5. But be specific.
Make sure you use the words “divorce” and “separation.” Don’t sugarcoat the situation to lessen the impact of the news. Be clear. Be brief. Be straightforward. Use age-appropriate language that gets the message across about the facts, as uncomfortable and unpleasant as it may be.
6. Pick a good time.
Don’t use your typical Saturday family movie night to break the divorce news. Try to avoid delivering the information around a holiday, birthday, special occasion, or before the big game or an important exam. This is a memorable conversation, whether you like it or not. Pick a day when divorce news will not cloud more pleasant memories and a time when you will be very available to support your child and give him time to process the news.
7. Let them know the plan.
Kids thrive on schedules and routines. And when divorce news comes crashing down on them they will begin worrying about where everyone is going to live, if they have to change schools, what will happen to their extracurricular activities and time with their friends, what about college, and so on down the line. You should address with your children how life will be different, but it’s also critical to let them know what will stay the same.
If you’re not ready to tell your kids about your divorce, visit a Michigan divorce attorney first. Feeling like the wheels are in motion and you have facts to go on, dates, and information can help you feel a sense of control over the situation. And that can help ease the difficulty of imparting this news to your kids. Contact an experienced Michigan divorce attorney at Femminineo Attorneys in Mt. Clemens, MI, to schedule your no-cost initial interview.