Getting a divorce is always a serious decision and for many people who have children one of the biggest parts of it is deciding how to broach the subject with the kids.
Breaking the news that parents are splitting up is always a delicate situation, but it doesn’t need to be traumatic for you or your child. This is something that many families go through and there are ways of dealing with it sensitively so that your child knows that the decision you have made is not going to influence them in a negative way, and that while their family life and domestic situation might change, you both still love them and want to provide the best solution to keep them comfortable and happy.
Here is some advice on raising the subject of your impending divorce with your children.
Choose a Calm Moment
When you have to break bad news to a child it is always best to choose a situation in which they are calm, and things are peaceful. Regardless of whether or not they have witnessed you and your partner arguing or whether the divorce will come as a complete surprise to them, it is important that the situation in which you raise the subject with them is not one of drama or conflict and is a quiet time when they have an opportunity to ask any questions and to react to it in their own way. Sitting them down calmly and talking to them is usually the best option, and it is often better to do this in what seems to them as a spontaneous way, rather than telling them there is going to be a family meeting, because in that case they may be dreading all kinds of different bad news and be nervous about what they are going to hear, rather than just taking what you say as it comes.
Talk to Them Together if You Can
While there may be situations in which partners are no longer able to spend time together at all, it can be best in the situation of an amicable divorce if both parents are present when they talk to the children. If you can both be present and show them that you are handling this in an adult and mature way, they will be more likely to accept what is happening as they will see both sides of the arrangement at once, rather than speaking to Mom and Dad separately. Hearing the two sides of why the divorce is happening can be confusing to them and they may feel that they have to pick sides. This is not ideal for a child who is going through the experience of having their parents break up.
Reassure Them It Isn’t Their Fault
Some children have a tendency to blame themselves for the problems in their parents’ relationships. It is important to tell your child that the reason that you are divorcing is about you as a couple and nothing to do with anything they have done wrong or any problems they may have caused.
Children tend to see minor things that they have done wrong as far more important than they actually are, and so they may think that some misbehavior that they have committed recently or some other thing like their grades at school are to blame for the family situation. Make sure that they are aware that this is not the cause of your relationship breaking up and that nothing they could have done differently would have prevented it.
Answer the Questions You Can, Be Honest About the Ones You Can’t
Your child is likely to have a lot of questions such as whether or not they will live with one parent or the other, have shared custody arrangements, or whether they will need to move to a new house. You may not have the answers to all of this yet, because you probably have not even worked it all out between yourselves. For many couples that divorce, it is necessary to sell their home and you can find out more information about the best ways to do that quickly if you check it out.
It is OK not to have the answers to all of your child’s questions, but you should be honest about the things that have not been set up yet and the things that have. If you already know that the child will spend most of their time living with the mother, for example, then you can tell them this. But if you do not yet even know how the arrangements will work, it is OK to tell them that things are going to change and then you will keep them up-to-date on every arrangement as you make it.
Avoid Drama, Even if They Get Upset
It is possible, if not even likely, that your child will be upset by the news that you are getting divorced. They are possibly going to be angry, or frightened, and they are going to be thrown into doubt about their own future. However, it is important to remain calm even if they get upset, and not to create a dramatic scene. Being calm about things and answering the questions they have where you can, is really all that you can do to reassure them that, even though things are going to change, you have a handle on it. Reassure them that you are going to make sure their best interests are taking care of, and their lives should not become any worse as a result of the situation.
Telling a child that their parents are getting divorced is one of the hardest conversations you will probably ever have in your lifetime. It may be difficult to take this advice and remain calm and composed as you break this news to your child, but it is very important to do so, so that they can understand the situation and that they can trust you to handle it in a way that will ensure they are still well taken care of and that they are still very much loved by their parents.