Kids remember where they were when their parents first told them about the divorce. If that memory can be as peaceful, loving, and as safe as possible, it is going to be a significantly less traumatic memory for them as they age. Here are a few important suggestions for how to tell the kids that you and your spouse are getting a divorce.
- The first important piece is that you want to tell your kids at a time where they do not have anything important coming up that day.
- If they are in school, you want to tell them on the weekend rather than on a weeknight.
- If your kids are in school or receiving care from another provider, you may want to inform that person the day before so they can be prepared to respond appropriately if they notice the kids are expressing some strong or painful emotions or acting in ways that were not previously typical for the child.
- The second important piece is to make sure you have a plan for what is going to happen, before you tell your kids.
- Will someone be moving out immediately? If so, who? Where will they move to?
- Can you give the kids a few weeks to start processing everything before moving out?
- The third important piece is to tell the kids in a quiet space. This should be a private event. No one other than the immediate family should be involved. I have had clients ask if they should bring their kids in my office to tell them. That is not preferred because kids don’t want to be told that kind of news in front of a stranger.
- The fourth important piece is, if possible, both parents should tell the kids at the same time. It should be a united message coming from both parents. They should give the kids reassurance that they are still a family and this was an adult decision the parents have given a lot of thought. The kids will benefit from hearing that this decision was not because of anything that they did.
- The fifth important piece is that the parents should be able to regulate their emotions. It is okay to show some sadness. It is okay to cry a little bit. That models healthy emotional expression for them. But you want to make sure, as the parent, that you are emotionally regulated enough to not overwhelm your kids with your own emotions.
What Difference Will It Make in the Kids’ Lives When You Tell Them the Right Way?
When you tell the kids in the right way, they have enough space and time to process their emotions and ask questions.
- They can start the grieving and healing process before they must be around others.
- It may be a traumatic experience, but telling them the right way reduces the traumatic impact.
- It gives kids the opportunity to have more resilience through this process.
How parents behave during the divorce process can also have a direct impact on the kids. Once parents have told their kids about the divorce, it is important to not fight with each other in front of the kids anymore. If conversations are needed that are for the adults only, those need to be done where the kids cannot hear. To know that your parents are getting divorced and then seeing them continuing to fight is especially hard on kids. If you need to vent about your soon-to-be ex, go to the appropriate people. Talk to family, friends, or a therapist, but do not put your kids in the middle.
Do not talk poorly about the other parent to the kids. The kids have the right to a relationship with both of their parents and to not feel like they must take sides.
A Collaborative Divorce creates a safe environment to talk about the divorce and not get the kids caught in the middle. Collaborative Divorce is designed to help the families, whereas traditional divorce runs the risk of creating a winner/loser scenario that has a negative impact on the kids. Collaborative Divorce puts the whole family and especially the kids’ interests first.