Telling your children about your decision to divorce may be one of the more difficult things about going through a divorce. Even though being aware of discord between their parents, children seldom understand the long range impact of divorce on their own lives.
Remembering that your words will likely set the stage for your children’s ability to cope with the upcoming changes, it is important to discuss the topic of divorce with care. Here are four suggestions for introducing the idea of divorce to your children.
1. ONLY DISCUSS WITH YOUR CHILDREN WHEN YOU ARE CERTAIN YOU ARE DIVORCING.
Your child is not your sounding board. Do not seek input or opinion from your child about the necessity, appropriateness, or causes of your upcoming divorce. The decision to divorce is an adult decision and is not decided by majority rules.
2. CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE TIME AND PLACE.
You must think about when and where you should begin to discuss the divorce. Obviously you will want to avoid announcing your decision to divorce on a special occasion or holiday. Also, you should allow plenty of time for the meeting. This means not starting the discussion before school or before another scheduled activity that would restrict your time.
3. IF POSSIBLE, BOTH PARENTS AND ALL CHILDREN SHOULD BE PRESENT.
Ideally, both parents should participate in the initial discussion with the children. If not, then neither parent should malign the other. Carefully explain the situation without details or blame. It is important that the children not believe that they are the cause of the divorce. The most important message at this time is that, even though their lives are changing, both parents will continue to love them.
To the extent possible, all the children should be told at the same time. This helps to avoid any misunderstandings or feelings of being excluded. This is a time that your children will likely depend on each other to a great extent and it is important to be inclusive.
4. PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR THE MEETING.
Since the children will likely be concerned about the immediate impact on their lives, to the extent possible you should be prepared to discuss specifics. For example, if one of you is planning to move out of the marital residence, be prepared to address the move and discuss that they will now have two homes. If your children participate in extra-curricular sports or activities, your discussion could include how their day-to-day activities will be handled. Again, this is not the time to seek your children’s input on adult decisions. Remember that the goals of this initial meeting are to announce the divorce, to address your plans for their immediate future, and to reassure them. Often it is helpful to seek the advice of a counselor or professional in advance of the meeting. Just remember that your goal is to make the transition easier for your children so outside resources may be helpful both before and after the initial meeting.
TRAVERS AND TRAVERS CAN ASSIST YOU.
While it is sometimes easy to be consumed by disappointment or sadness about your divorce, it is important to remember how your attitude affects your children. The attorneys at Travers & Travers can assist you through the many stages of handling your divorce with children, including your initial discussion.