The family that your children have known is about to undergo tremendous change. Divorce research has shown that children are rarely informed about their parents’ pending separation and divorce prior to its occurrence. The younger the children, the less chance that they were told in advance about the divorce. Click here for a terrific article on getting your children through your divorce.
Parents’ reasons for not informing their children are well intentioned. They are anxious and afraid themselves, and they have difficulty figuring out when and what to say. Some parents fear burdening their children if they say too much. Others are concerned that their children won’t understand the reasons, and that the information will add to their hurt unnecessarily. Sometimes parents wait until the time seems right, and then events gather momentum, and the opportunity has slipped away. All of these reasons that parents wait to tell their children are understandable, but they are not helpful. Your children need to know. In fact, it will make the divorce more predictable to them, which will facilitate their healthy adaptation.
How Do We Tell the Children?
The first step in informing your children about the separation and divorce is for you and your spouse to sit down and talk about it by yourselves. Decide if you are definite about separating; it is not helpful for your children to hear that you might do this. Once you have reached a decision, make an agreement about where the children will live and what kind of parenting plan your spouse and you will implement, at least on a temporary basis. You are then ready to speak to the children about your decisions.
A family meeting is a good forum to tell your children about your decisions. There are several advantages for your children if both of you can tell them together of your plans. Children will see that you intend to cooperate and work together as parents. It gives the messages that although this is a painful turn of events, we will deal with it together. Also, we can talk about it. The invitation exists to talk about undesirable subjects. By logical extension, feelings and actions of all kinds are acceptable fodder for discussion. Most of all, your actions show the children that you, as parents, are in charge and will continue to care together for them.
The first thing to tell the children is that you will be divorcing. You may want to say: “We have been unhappy for a long time because we fight so much. We have tried very hard to get along better and to work things out, but we have decided it is necessary to live apart. It is our best chance of preserving our friendship. We have decided to separate. We have decided that Mom/Dad will move out.” Click here for an article on how to tell your children about your divorce.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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