So, you’ve made your decision. You’ve tried everything and have concluded that divorce is the best option for you. Now comes one of the hardest parts: how do you let your children know you’ll get divorced?
This is one of those key moments where how you say things has a huge impact. So first, consider a few things that Ph.D. Lisa Herrick recommends:
- Let them know ahead: it is a must to let them know 2-3 weeks prior to the separation. This way, children will know that the whole family’s dynamic will change soon and prepare. You can explain the plans you have figured out, “Daddy will be moving to a new home, but he’ll drive you to school every morning”. It is not necessary to be extremely detailed, but it’s good to let them know how you expect things will move along on the following weeks.
- Do it together: Even if the marriage is over, parenting is not and this is the start of all the things you’ll need to still do together.
- Be ready for reactions: Of course, it is expected that some children may cry. There may be tantrums. Or children might pretend they did not hear you. As well as you know your children, reactions might vary a lot. Since this is uncharted territory, there is no way of predicting how your children will react, so just try to be honest and loving.
- Give them time to process: this does not only include doing it ahead of time but choosing the right moment. Weekends are especially good moments because children will have enough time to start diving into new emotions, ask questions, and reflect on what this may mean for them and also feel those emotions.
- Let their teachers know previously: They might start to act out in school or behave in an uncharacteristic way.
- Show your emotions: If you get chocked up or cry, it’s ok. This is a sad event for the family and you will try to help everyone in the process.
5 key messages
Besides all of this, there are 5 key messages to repeat over the next few months, not only during this first conversation:
- Neither parent is to blame – Both have worked hard on making it work.
- It is not the child’s fault – This might be very evident to you, but it might haunt a child’s mind for months. Make it very clear that this is a decision that adults made. It has nothing to do with anything children might have done or said and cannot be altered by behaving “nicely”.
- Love both parents fully – Children can keep on loving both parents without the fear of “betraying” anyone. Herrick makes clear this message is crucial in protecting the kids from pain and maladjustment.
- Different feelings are normal – Let children know that this is a new situation that might make them feel a lot of different things, and all of them are valid.
- Still a family, just changing – Let them know that you are still their loving parents and no one is going away. They will still be loved as much as they were before, just with a different dynamic.
Hopefully, this information will help you in letting your children know about this new phase in the whole family’s life. On this blog, we have resources that will help you take on co-parenting in the best way possible.