Getting married is a happy occasion, and no one starts out in their marriage planning for it to end. But sadly, some marriages are not fated to make it to gold and silver anniversaries. When the marriage falls apart, it can be difficult to break the news to those in your family, but it can be especially hard to give the sad news to your children. Telling your kids is one of the first things you must do once you decide to end your marriage. Besides you and your spouse, no one else will be more impacted by the fallout from the dissolution of your marriage than your children. How you tell them the news will set the tone for the weeks and months that follow until the divorce is finalized.
Here are some tips for breaking the news to your kids without creating fear and panic about the future or making them choose sides:
- Pick the Right Place and Time: Don’t break the news at Christmas because everyone is home and on holiday. Your children will remember every detail of your divorce announcement, from where they were to when it happened. This is a traumatic event in most children's lives, which is evident in the fact that when surveyed, many young adults with divorced parents said they would never forget the moment they learned about their parents’ divorce. Be thoughtful when choosing a place and time. Plan the event somewhere the kids feel comfortable on an unassuming day without any significance.
- Everyone Should Find Out Together: Don’t piecemeal this important news. Don’t give the children the information in chunks or in groups. Everyone should find out everything at once. All the information you know and want to share should be told to all the children at one time. Even if your children range in ages and may not all understand equally, you don’t want to tell the older children and force them to withhold the information from their younger siblings or accidentally tell the information.
- Be Prepared to Answer Questions: You can’t assume your kids will just accept the information and go back to what they were doing until you tell them it’s over and finalized. In an understandable effort to shield their kids from the divorce process, most parents end up hiding information about the divorce from their children. This is a mistake. You should create a safe space for questions, sadness, and emotionality as they process the end of your marriage. Your kids are grieving the loss of their family, so working to prevent this can hurt their chances of moving on and healing. Answer their questions as honestly as you feel is appropriate. Tell them why you’ve decided to end the marriage because it will help them process their feelings.
- Form a Unified Front: When kids get one message from their parents that’s the same, it helps them process the situation. When each parent presents a different story or different cause, it can lead to confusion and sow the seeds of distrust between kids and parents. Plan the conversation with your spouse and agree about how much to share and how you will answer questions. If there is an especially negative piece of information or something you think is not age-appropriate, work together to determine how and what you will share.
Creating an open and honest dialogue to help your children process this difficult information can support them emotionally and help them avoid acting out or seeking unsafe coping mechanisms to process the information. If you are ready to file for your divorce, call us today at (888) 863-9115 to schedule a consultation.