The process of getting a divorce is inevitably hard on the partners. However, many parents often do not entirely understand the impact that their separation can have on their children. Parents imagine that the older the kids are, the easier it is for them to digest this piece of information. However, this is simply not true.
No matter how young or how old kids are, hearing about their parents getting a divorce is jolting, jarring, and extremely traumatic for them.
If you and your partner are thinking of getting a divorce, and imagine that it is finally time to tell your kids about it, then there are a few things you need to consider.
- This is a sensitive topic, and even if you think your kids are ready for this news, you can never really predict how they will react.
- There are no hard and fast rules about what the right or wrong thing to say is.
- Try and tell your kid (or kids) about the news in a safe environment where they have the option to react genuinely.
- It is essential not to lose your cool, get angry, or get overly emotional while talking to them about this. Their ‘perfect’ world is already shattering upon hearing this news, and the parents becoming anything other than ‘stable’ is going to jar them even further.
Here are some tips on how you can tell your kids that you and your spouse are getting a divorce:
Don’t tell them separately
A lot of parents often make this mistake while telling their children about their impending divorce. They assume that each parent should tackle one child at a time, and it will be easier to handle them that way.
This is simply not true and will make them feel even more of a disconnect with you as well as with their sibling. If you have more than one child, you should bring them together and tell them the news. Allow them the space to ask you any questions if they want to, or even react emotionally, as is very natural.
Tell them the news at home
You and your spouse decide to take your children out on a weekend getaway, or maybe to their favorite restaurant. You let them enjoy themselves, have their best meal, and then suddenly, you drop this bomb on them. You think that since they are in public, or since they just had a great time, they might take the news better.
This cannot be further than the truth.
This sort of thing might make them feel even angrier, and also make them feel like you are trying to manipulate them.
Instead, you should tell your kids about this in the safe environment of your own home. Allow them the space to react as they feel is necessary, allow them to be honest, and give them the space to process this information. Many times, children just freeze upon hearing this information and don’t know how to react. Remember, this is natural, and you should just give them some time and space to process this.
Explain your feelings towards them
Inevitably, one of the first things that a kid will do upon hearing this piece of news is to blame themselves for it. They might imagine that you are getting a divorce because of them. They might get angry, or feel guilty, or even take it upon themselves to get you two back together.
Or worse, they might think that you don’t love them anymore.
You and your spouse must explain to your kids that the divorce has nothing to do with them. You should tell them that you both are still their parents, and that fact does not change, even with the divorce.
If they are old enough to understand, then you can be honest and tell them why you are deciding to get a divorce. You might even try to explain to them why you are unhappy and why divorce is a way for the two of you to be happy once again in your lives.
Choose your words well
Whether you acknowledge it or not, news like this is going to shatter your kids’ world completely.
This is why it is vital to be gentle, empathetic, and choose your words well. As far as possible, be honest with your kids about the issue and why you two are deciding to take a step like this. However, they are your children, not your lawyers, so spare them the gory details.
Don’t play the blame game
More often than not, two partners decide to part ways because they are unhappy with each other, or their relationship, or both. In any case, it is easy to simply blame your spouse for all your marital problems and play the victim card.
However, when you are deciding to break the news to your kids, this is not an excellent strategy to play.
Do not mention financial issues, infidelity issues, or other such very personal details, as it is likely just to confuse your kid, especially if they are very young.
It can be tempting to blame your partner for lack of effort or their misdoings, but avoid doing this in front of your kid. It is a better approach to show that the two of you are taking this decision mutually, that nobody is to blame, and that this decision will eventually make everyone happy.
Allow them to express grief
Although you might be feeling a great sense of relief, your child will not share your feelings. Instead, they will feel sorrow, grief, and even guilt.
Allow your child to feel these emotions and give them the comfort and space to talk to you, or someone else about it. Remember, this is a very traumatic experience for a child. In case you think having a professional therapist to speak to would do your child right, then make sure you find a good therapist well in time.
Divorcing your partner cannot be an easy decision; however, in some cases, it is the only way out of an unhappy marriage. Keep in mind that your kid is still your kid, and most probably will not be too happy about this- so be gentle and empathetic when telling them about this.