Most people hope that they’ll ever have to say “I do” one time, meeting their perfect partner or ‘soulmate’ and living happily ever after. Unfortunately, statistics show that a large number of marriages in the US and elsewhere around the globe will end in divorce, involving a long and often challenging legal battle that can be made much more complicated when children are involved.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of child custody negotiations with your legal team, you’ll have to find yourself in the unenviable position of having to tell your child or children that you and your partner are getting divorced.
This is never an easy conversation to have, and it’s one that can involve a lot of emotions, leading to many parents trying to put it off or avoid it altogether. However, you have to respect your children’s feelings and acknowledge that they’re going to be affected by this process, so they deserve to be aware of it as early as possible.
It won’t be an easy talk, but there are ways to make it a little less painful for all concerned. With this in mind, here are some top tips for telling your children that you’re getting a divorce.
This will be a very big conversation. It may very well be one that your child remembers vividly for the rest of their life. Therefore, it deserves to be planned and prepared properly.
Take some time before sitting down with your children to think about what you’re going to say, how you want to say it, and what kinds of questions or responses you might expect from your kids.
Also, if you’ve decided to retake your maiden name after getting divorced, you should keep in mind that your child’s name will not change automatically, so you’re going to need to discuss this with your children. You can petition to change your child’s last name after divorce, so that you can share a family name going forward. Whether you shared last names with your spouse or not, as a single parent you’re going to want a last name connection with your child for school, medical, travel and all the other growing up situations that come with real life.
Time it Right
Another top tip is to avoid having this conversation on holidays, special occasions, or other important dates. As stated above, your children will probably remember this for a long time, and the feelings they experience could become forever associated with the date you choose.
So, if you happened to have the talk around Christmas time, they might not be able to celebrate Christmas the same way in future.
Both Partners Should Be Present
Depending on the situation, this might not always be possible, but it’s recommended to have both parents present for the talk.
Talking to your kids as a pair will give them a clear impression that even though you might be separating, you’re still willing to work and communicate together to prevent the family from breaking apart entirely.
Avoid Placing Blame
During divorce proceedings, emotions tend to run high. It’s easy to feel anger, resentment, or frustration towards your future ex-spouse, depending on the circumstances and situation that led to your separation.
You’re perfectly free to have your own private feelings regarding responsibility and blame, but try to avoid airing those ideas in front of the kids. Children can struggle to cope when hearing one parent blame the other, and it’s much safer to present a united front and tell your kids that you both made the decision together.
Explain and Answer Questions
Be ready for a long conversation. Simply sitting down and telling your kids that you’re splitting up won’t be sufficient. They’ll want to know more, they’ll need to know the reason why, and they might have several questions about what comes next.
Be prepared for these questions, as well as you can, and don’t shy away from explaining the reasoning behind your decision. You don’t need to go into deep detail on every issue, but, together with your spouse, come up with an explanation for the situation that your kids can understand.
Adjust for Age
Obviously, trying to explain a divorce to a four-year-old will be a very different situation to telling a teenager about your decision. Adjust your approach, based on the age of your children; older kids may want or be able to hear more details about the situation, while younger kids will need simpler language.
In any case, however, be sure to respect your children’s feelings and acknowledge them. Even older kids can suffer from a lot of sadness, loneliness, and frustration when their parents separate, so you should never assume that just because your kids are in their teens that they’ll be able to cope more easily.
Letting your little ones or older kids know about a divorce is never an enjoyable moment, but it’s something that needs to be done, and if you approach it carefully, you can negotiate this challenging talk and achieve the best possible outcome.