Initiating the divorce process is difficult, but breaking the news to your children can be even more daunting. Young children aren’t emotionally capable of understanding the adult reasons behind divorce. They will often go to great lengths to convince their parents to stay together. Many children exhibit a pattern of emotional disruptions in the year following their parents’ divorce. Here are a few tips for broaching the subject of divorce with your children, and helping them cope with the inevitable changes:
1. Be honest yet age appropriate
Children don’t need to know about the gory details of your spouse’s affair or your inability to see eye-to-eye on financial matters. While most children will inevitably ask you why you’re divorcing their mother/father, it’s up to you to keep the answer simple and diplomatic. If they ask a point-blank question about infidelity or other hot-button topics, be honest yet brief. The important thing is to convey the information without burdening them with the details surrounding the divorce.
2. Don’t speak ill of your soon-to-be ex
Your ex will always be their parent. Nothing should necessitate that your child stop loving one of their parents. Saying negative things about your former spouse is essentially forcing them to choose a side. This is unfair and potentially damaging.
3. Plan before you break the news
If you’re still on speaking terms with you ex, plan what you will say to your children ahead of time. Keeping your stories straight is an important. If your spouse gives one reason for the divorce and you give another, one or both of you will appear to be liars. The same event can look quite different from your spouse’s perspective, so it’s good to be on the same page.
4. Create a sense of security
Make plans concerning visitation, custody and living arrangements early in the divorce process. In this way you can give your children the benefit of knowing where and when they will get to see each of their parents. This fosters a sense of security. New routines must be developed, especially for young children.
Also, make sure you listen to your child’s insecurities concerning the divorce. Many children believe that they’re the cause of their parents’ divorce or that they won’t ever see one of their parents again. Listening is key to alleviating these fears.
5. Know when to seek professional help
Watch for behavioural changes. Indications of emotional difficulty include the following: acting out, dropping grades, social withdrawal and emotional regression. Sign up for professional help sooner rather than later. Early intervention can prevent these behavioural changes from becoming lifelong patterns.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She often can be found blogging about education and scholarships for college. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.