For parents considering a divorce, broaching the topic with children is often a major cause of concern. It's not easy to predict how children will react to the news of a divorce, and creating a more stressful family dynamic is something most parents would rather avoid.
Of course, you'll need to tell your kids about the divorce at some point. Understanding how your children might react and how you can tactfully bring up a divorce can enable you to make the process as peaceful as possible.
Make a Script
Talking about divorce with your children will always be challenging, especially if you and your spouse are somewhat estranged.
Once you've decided to move forward with the divorce, work with your partner to come up with a script for how you'll tell the kids. It may seem less "real" than coming up with a speech on the fly, but you'll thank yourself later.
Many children remember the moment their parents told them about a divorce for the rest of their lives. Preparing what you'll say beforehand enables you to make the moment as peaceful and productive as possible.
Think Carefully About How Much You Tell Your Children
Now's probably a good time to discuss how your child's age and maturity will affect how they process the divorce.
Generally, the younger your child is, the less they'll understand the divorce—and the more they'll view it in black and white. A child in elementary school will not process a divorce in the same way as a teenager. You should consider visiting a psychologist who specializes in developmental psychology to learn more about how your child might react to the divorce, and strategies you can use to make it less painful for them.
Regardless, your child probably doesn't need to know all the gritty details of why you're getting divorced. Just dealing with the immediate effects of a divorce on their life will be daunting for your child. If something like adultery played a role in the dissolution of your marriage, it might be better to broach that topic post-divorce when your child is in a better place mentally.
Try and Present a United Front (Where Possible)
It's not always possible to present a united front for your child (especially if factors like domestic violence play a role in the divorce). However, if you and your spouse are on relatively good terms, you should try and put your best collective foot (feet?) forward for your child.
If your child knows both their parents are there to support them and help them process the divorce, it will make the process easier. Additionally, the more effectively you and your ex can deal with the divorce as a united front, the better foundation you lay for your co-parenting relationship going forward.
Consider What's Going on in Your Child's Life Before Telling Them About the Divorce
Remember, your kids have lives too—especially if they're older. If your teenager is going through their first big breakup, it might not be the best time to break the news of a divorce.
You should make an effort to know what's going on in your kid's life and try to broach the subject of divorce when you know they're in a good place mentally and physically.
Tell People Surrounding Your Children About the Divorce
The divorce will affect your child almost as much (if not as much) as it affects you, at least emotionally. Many children start performing worse in school or at extracurricular activities when dealing with the stress of a divorce.
It may feel awkward, but telling teachers and coaches about the divorce can help you create a support network around your child and enable them to deal with the divorce healthily.
Come Up with Strategies for Dealing with Your Child's Response Beforehand
Some children lash out at their parents after hearing about a divorce. Others shut down and stop communicating about their emotions at all.
As we mentioned earlier, a child development psychologist or family counselor can be a great resource during this time to help you deal with the divorce more holistically.
You and your partner should prepare for various emotional responses from your child, and agree on how to deal with them. Avoid punishing your child for lashing out (within reason, of course), and instead, focus on helping them process their emotions about the divorce in a healthy way.
Acknowledging and working through emotional outbursts productively can help make the divorce more peaceful overall, leading to the best results for all parties.
If you're engaged in a divorce, you deserve help from an experienced divorce lawyer.
To schedule a consultation with divorce attorneys who care, contact us online or via phone at (631) 237-9525.