No one enters a marriage expecting it to fail. However, according to the government’s National Survey of Family Growth, 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and 48% of marriages dissolve by the 20-year mark. For many parents, discussing divorce with their kids is the hardest part of the entire divorce process. Most people are not sure how their kids will handle the information. At different stages, your children may not process the information you give them the same way.
That’s why you must learn how to have this conversation correctly. You can have a conversation together, including your soon-to-be ex-spouse, to help present a united front. This also reinforces that you’re still family. If you cannot have a conversation together, it’s good to discuss what you plan to share and how to share it appropriately. Here’s how to talk to your children about divorce.
Plan What To Say Together
Most experts recommend that parents sit together to calmly share the news of their divorce with their children. While it’s not always possible, especially when the divorce is nasty and messy, this is the best approach. This is a time when kids need to be reassured. When they see you together and you share the same message, they are comforted by the fact that you’re on the same team. Before sharing the news, the parents must discuss what to say to avoid overwhelming the children. Both of you know how your kids are and can anticipate how they will react. Knowing what to tell them helps make the conversation much easier for both of you.
Anticipate Your Kids’ Reaction
Most children will likely not understand why you’re getting a divorce. With so many couples living unmarried but bringing up kids together, children don’t always take divorce positively. According to the Census, about 5.5 million American couples live together unmarried. Therefore, it’s essential to be prepared for any reaction you might get from a child and be ready to handle it. At this point, your children need reassurance that nothing will change about them. Remind them that you still love them and will always be there for them.
Listen To What Your Kids Have to Say
Your kids will have plenty of questions. That’s good because you would rather let them ask questions than give them a lot of information they aren’t ready for. Be truthful with your responses and make them brief. Your response should also be geared towards giving directions on the way forward. Explain what will be different and what won’t change.
Avoid Blame and Arguments
Blame and arguments in front of the children show disunity. Remember, your children need both of you. Such behavior makes your child feel like they have to choose sides, which can have a more negative impact. During the entire divorce process, you want to ensure that you’re mentally stable for the sake of the children. This way, you can look after yourself and take care of the children. If you’re overwhelmed with the entire process, take a break, avoid driving, and talk to a counselor. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 2015 had more than 313,00 motor vehicle crashes. Some of these accidents may be caused by distraction and mental instability.
Provide Enough Information
Your children will want to know what happened and what’s the way forward depending on their age. It’s your responsibility to answer these questions truthfully. While there’s no exact answer to how much information you should provide, it’s essential to be aware of how much your child can handle. Your child’s maturity can impact how much information and detail they can handle. For instance, young children may not fully understand the finality of the situation and whether their parents will still love them if they fall out with each other. Grade school children may also not understand that they’re not to blame for the divorce.
A divorce is not easy, especially when children are involved. By taking the proper steps to inform them, you can promote a sense of normalcy and understanding in the home. Be sure to speak with your family lawyer about some dos and don’ts, as they may have experience with past cases.