While there is no perfect time to tell your children of your plans to divorce, it’s generally a good idea to tell them sooner rather than later. While you may want to hold off until it’s necessary to tell your children the situation between mom and dad, this may be a slippery slope. It would be much more traumatic for the children if one parent left in the middle of the night and you had to explain to them what happened the next morning, versus a scenario in which the children are kept informed of what they can expect in the impending separation. Remember, too, that children are very intuitive and so even if you can’t tell, it’s likely your children already have an idea that your once-loving marriage is on the fritz.
How to Tell Your Child About Your Divorce
If you have already made the decision to get a divorce, you must now deal with the task of informing those closest to you, such as your parents, siblings, and even close friends. These conversations are going to be difficult and emotional, but they will be nowhere near as challenging as the one you have with your children. The initial conversation you have with them will have a profound impact on their lives, so it is crucial to handle this with care and attention.
Here are some tips that will help you talk to your children about your impending divorce:
- Be a team: Even though you will no longer be married, you and your soon-to-be former spouse will always be parents to your children. For this reason, it is important to have this important conversation with them together, as a team. Stay focused on your children rather than on the issues that led to your divorce, so you can avoid getting involved in a heated argument or finger-pointing. Remember, this conversation is for your children, so try to set aside the anger or resentment you might feel toward your spouse.
- Choose an appropriate time: Deciding when to tell your children is an important part of this process. Pick a time that gives your children the opportunity to cope with and process this information. Do not tell them before they go to bed or before you leave for work. Consider telling them on a Friday before the weekend, so they have a couple of days to think about it and come to you for follow-up discussions.
- Emphasize these key points: When talking to your children about your divorce, there are some key points you need to drive home. Make sure they understand that there was nothing they could have done to change the outcome and that you will both still love them, regardless of the status of your marriage. It might seem like common sense to you, but it is a very real fear for your children.
- Give them any of the details they should know: Your children do not need to know every little detail about your divorce, but they should know any of the aspects that might personally affect them. For example, if one of you is planning to move out of the family home, let them know where and how often they might be able to visit. If you do not know the answers to some of their questions, tell them you will let them know once you find out. Be honest and open, but do not explain to them the details of why you are getting divorced. It will be unnecessarily painful.
After this initial conversation, you should expect to have more follow-ups, so be ready for any their questions and concerns. Together, you can get through this.
What You Should & Shouldn’t Say to Your Children
Make sure you are as straightforward yet as sensitive as you can be when discussing your divorce plans with your children. Have an idea in advance about what your post-divorce parenting plan will be so your children have an idea of what to expect. Be careful not to assign any blame to your ex, and to present the decision to divorce as a joint one. Above all, make sure your children know you love them and that you are united in keeping them happy and healthy as their co-parents.
Rehearsing the Divorce Announcement in Advance May Help
Divorce is an emotional time for the entire family, not just the separating spouses. If you are planning a divorce and you have children, you should tell them of your plans before you involve others, even your lawyer, in many cases.
Before you sit down to have the talk with your children, it can help if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse rehearse what you plan to say to the children and so you can have a consistent message from both mom and dad. You should be prepared for high emotions from the children, such as depression or even anger at the potential shock of the news. Every child hears the news in their own unique way. For that reason, it helps to anticipate how each of your children will react to the news, and come up with a joint strategy on how to address any potentially thorny issues that will arise.
For more information about how we can help, please contact Letterio & Haug, LLP today at (845) 203-0997 or contact us online to book your consultation.