Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional times in a person’s life. It’s hard enough wrapping your own head around the event, but trying to break the news to your children can be especially difficult.
Many parents struggle having this conversation because they worry they may not be able to keep their emotions in check. They also wonder if shielding their kids from the ensuing pain isn’t the loving thing to do.
Though it may seem like avoiding this conversation is the right idea, it can actually be quite detrimental to your kids and, in the end, cause behavioral or emotional issues. While it will no doubt be difficult and uncomfortable, having an open and honest conversation about your divorce is the best thing to do.
Here are some guidelines:
Have Both Parents Break the News
This might be difficult for some couples, but ideally, a joint conversation with your children is the best option for a few reasons:
- They’ll get the same message from both of you instead of a he-said, she-said scenario.
- It shows them that no matter what, when it comes to parenting, you are both committed and on the same page.
- It instills a sense of security that though family dynamics are changing, there will still be a family structure that you will all create together.
You may feel uncomfortable during the conversation and want to be… less than honest at times, but it’s important to be completely transparent while speaking with your kids.
First of all, children have a knack for sniffing out dishonesty in adults. Trying to pull one over on them, even if you believe it’s for their own good, may only cause them to feel angry and resentful. Also, if you don’t give kids truthful answers, they will wind up creating their own answers just to quell the anxiety.
Obviously, there may be age-appropriate guidelines to the discussion, and specific language may have to be either included or excluded, but at the end of the day, honesty truly is the best policy.
Discuss Upcoming Changes
When children are told their parents are getting divorced, they can’t conceive of what that means in terms of what life will be like in the future. It’s important that you let them know what they can expect when it comes to things like where they will live and how much time they will have with each parent. If you yourselves don’t have all of those answers yet, then communicate this to your children and let them know you will share this information as soon as you’ve made decisions.
Don’t Push Your Children for a Reaction
Once the news has been broken, many parents want immediate feedback from their kids. But it’s important to remember that children will all process the news differently. Some kids may feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings, while others may struggle. While your intentions may be good, pushing your children to give you a reaction before they are ready to react can be detrimental.
The best thing you can do is to let your children know you love them, and that you are available to them whenever they are ready to share their thoughts and feelings, or if they have more questions.
The divorce process will be difficult for all family members to cope with, and it may be difficult for everyone to communicate effectively when emotions are running high. If you feel you could use some help, it’s a great idea to seek support and guidance from a family therapist. They will be able to facilitate loving and open communication and help your family adjust to the changes that lie ahead.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.