Divorce is painful in almost every instance. If you and your spouse have determined that it’s better to live apart, you’ve likely already had difficult conversations. But discussing it with your children is an entirely different matter.
Some parents procrastinate talking to their kids about divorce or separation because they think it will spare their feelings. But the truth is that if they are old enough to interact with you or others, it’s always better for them to hear it from you than someone else.
Five tips for talking to your kids about divorce or separation
While there’s no easy way to tell your children, there are several things you can do to help them understand. Here are five things to remember:
- Plan and rehearse: You and your spouse should figure out how, when and where to tell them. Make sure it’s a safe space, like at home. Have the discussion early enough so they can ask questions. It’s a good idea to practice what you’ll say.
- Be united: It’s crucial that your kids get the same message from both of you and that you tell them together.
- Avoid blame: Don’t attribute fault to your spouse or yourself. That will only encourage your children to take sides, which can cause long-term damage.
- Keep explanations simple: Telling them the whole truth is less important than reassuring them. Depending upon their age, they may want more information. Try to avoid intimate details that led to the breakup. Instead, offer general explanations without blame.
- Tell them what happens next: Your kids will want to know who is leaving, where they’ll live and how divorce will affect their lives. Reassure them that you are still a family living in different households and that their school, friends and other activities won’t change.
Give them time to adjust
Even if you tick all the boxes for the suggestions above, your children will need time to absorb the life-changing effects of divorce. Understand that angry, sad or quiet reactions are all normal. Always encourage them to ask questions and be honest in your responses. Remind them that parents can divorce each other, but they never divorce their kids.