When you and your spouse have decided to separate, there are dozens of
vital decisions to make. The one with the most long-term effect will be
how you communicate the divorce to your children. The chances are that
your children (depending on their age) are already aware that something
is amiss. Kids are more perceptive than we give them credit for.
Here are some practical tips for having this conversation with your kids:
Make sure there is nothing scheduled for after the conversation – Allow your children as much time as they need to adjust to the news.
Don’t talk about the divorce until you’ve both finalized the decision – About 2 weeks prior to separation is good timing; it’s enough
to allow children to adjust to the news and spend time with the parent
who’s moving out without forcing them to live in the tension for too long.
Treat the situation as an ongoing conversation – Kids don’t have the emotional vocabulary to process divorce in one
sitting. They’ll have continuing questions and concerns—encourage
them to come to you for anything they need to know over the next few days
Make sure you’re both present for the conversation – Having both of you there means your kids will know this is both of your
decision. Even if that’s not true, your children’s sense of
security depends on you two being a team.
Use the word “we” a lot – We cannot stress this enough: do not blame each other or even hint that
there is disagreement. If you appear to resent each other, your children
may interpret it to be the “fault” of one of the parents.
No one deserves that, least of all your children.
Here’s what you need to understand:
Children are naturally self-centered. Not in a bad way, mind you—that’s
simply part of their development. They learn about themselves first, then
others. As a result, any major shifts or changes in their life will give
rise to three questions:
- How will this affect me?
- How did I cause this?
- Do they still love me?
vital that you communicate that this isn’t their fault. Externalize the
cause—highlight that you and your spouse simply cannot work out
your differences, or need to be apart for your sakes. Encourage your kids
to show love and affection to the other parent (even if this is difficult
for you). Put aside any pettiness or bitterness you’re working through—no
private feud is worth endangering their relationship with either of their parents.
The key to any divorce conversation is to provide your children with space
for their needs. Do they need to cry, yell, and slam a door? Be okay with
that. Will they be worried about how the divorce will affect their daily
routine? Be ready to field those questions. Will they need to be reassured
of your love several times a day over the next few weeks? Be vocally affectionate.
If you have any more questions about your divorce, feel free to explore
our blog or read our
divorce page. The law firm of Goldberg & Gille is more than happy to answer your