Regardless of whether your kids are teenagers or toddlers, the most difficult part of the divorce process is telling them that mommy and daddy are getting a divorce. To minimize the adverse emotional impact this conversation will have on your child(ren), we suggest you heed the following advice:
1. Discuss it with your spouse beforehand.
You should discuss how, when, and where to tell your kids. For example, maybe you should discuss it with your children on a Friday, so they have time to absorb the news and ask any questions before returning to school on Monday. Avoid telling them before exams or a big game. Perhaps you should tell him/her in the presence a familiar therapist or guidance counselor. There should be no “surprises” in that the content of the discussion should be fully discussed beforehand.
2. Do it in a unified manner.
It is all too often that I hear a client tell me that his/her spouse took it upon him/herself to tell the children. That is just plain wrong. The kids need to be assured that their parents are still a team and that they are still going to be parenting them together. However, if you have a large age-gap between the children, or if one child has special needs and requires a different explanation, it may be more appropriate to tell the children separately.
Your children will absorb your emotions. If you appear frustrated, nervous, or angry, they will respond in a similar fashion. Also, avoid assigning blame or fault. Again, your children need to believe that mommy and daddy are a team. It is damaging to a child to speak negatively about the other parent in the child’s presence. It jeopardizes that child’s emotional development and relationship with that parent.
4. Keep it simple.
Your children don’t need specifics (i.e. when mommy and daddy “fell out of love”, or why the marriage disintegrated). If you overcomplicate it, they will overthink it and become overwhelmed and stressed about it.
5. Reassure the kids that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that you love them.
Jean Piaget, a developmental psychologist, was known for his studies on egocentrism. According to Piaget, children see themselves as the center of the universe, and every consequence is a direct result of the child’s behavior and actions. Bear this in mind by reminding the kids that the divorce has nothing to do them and that you love them.
6. Encourage the kids to express their thoughts, emotions, and questions.
Tell your kids that it’s okay to cry, be confused, or be scared. Validate their feelings and address them accordingly.
7. Be honest.
Don’t tell your kids that “daddy is going away for a while” or “mommy is going to stay at grandma’s to help her around the house.” Children are very perceptive. They need to trust that you are telling them the truth so that they can focus on adjusting to the new situation.
8. Give their teachers and caregivers a heads up.
Your children’s teachers and caregivers spend a significant amount of time with them. They can clue you in on how your child is reacting to the news, so you know how to better assist your child to cope with the divorce. Moreover, if your child is acting differently, his/her teachers and caregivers will display more patience and sympathy in dealing with him/her. You may want to also discuss with the teachers and caregivers about how to address the child’s questions about your divorce in your absence. This way, the children are getting consistent answers about their concerns.
9. Focus on the benefits from a child’s perspective of “having two homes”.
Let them know they will have another “getaway”. For smaller kids, explain that they will have a separate set of toys. More importantly, they will have more one-on-one time with the other parent.
10. Read with them.
At Ruvolo Law Group, LLC, we provide courtesy copies of recommended books to our clients to assist them and their children in coping with the divorce process. Some of our books appeal to children and pre-teens. Check out the “Recommended Reading” page on our website. If you’ve found a book to be particularly helpful that is not included on our “Recommended Reading” page, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may consider making it available to our clients.
At Ruvolo Law Group, LLC, we can assist you in understanding the divorce process and discussing it with your children. If you need our assistance, call our team at 973-993-9960 to schedule a consultation.
Blog Authored by Melissa M. Ruvolo, Esq.