When a couple is considering divorce, weighing the impact this decision will have on their children is at the front of their minds. Divorce is never easy on any family, but children are often better off with divorced parents than living with married parents who hate each other. Once the question of divorce is decided, parents immediately wonder what to say to their kids. No matter how you decide to break the news, reassuring your children they are loved and will always be cared for is most important.
Talk to Your Children Together
Have the divorce talk with your children together, and decide what you are going to say beforehand. Even if the divorce is not a mutual decision, it is important to approach your children as a team. Talking to your children together discourages one parent from blaming the other, keeps the story consistent, and promotes trust.
Timing is Important
Do not discuss separation or divorce with your children until a decision has been made. Telling them you are considering divorce will only cause them unnecessary worry. Once you know a divorce is inevitable, you may want to figure out a few things before you sit down with your kids. Children might be very concerned with the details, like living arrangements and how much time they will spend with each parent. While it is not necessary to have every element of your separation worked out, answering your child’s questions assures her that her parents have everything under control.
Although you do not want to spring this information on your children too soon, you will want to tell them before they hear it through the grapevine. Little children have big ears, and you do not want them to figure it out on their own by overhearing your conversations. Even worse, some children have learned of their parents’ divorce from extended family members and friends that did not realize it was still a secret. Talk to your children before they are the last to know.
Keep in Mind the Age and Maturity of Your Children
Tailor your speech to suit your child’s age and ability to understand. Preschool-age children will not comprehend complex concepts like divorce. They are mostly interested in how this separation will affect them personally. School-age children usually already know what divorce means and may even try to talk you out of it. Pre-teens and teenagers may want to focus on the hows and whys of the dissolution of your marriage, so try not to get too bogged down on these details.
Craft a few simple, age-appropriate sentences explaining the new situation to your children. Even though it seems obvious to you, assure your children that you love them and it is not their fault. Explain that while you and your spouse will be living apart, you will always be a family.
Be Prepared for Many Different Reactions
There is no way to predict how your child will react to the news that her parents are divorcing. Consider all five stages of grief, and be prepared to comfort your children through each stage. Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance are all normal reactions to the end of their parents’ marriage.
Don’t be surprised if your child’s reaction is none of these. He may seem ambivalent, unsurprised, or maybe even a little relieved. This is also normal, as are delayed reactions. Even if he seems unaffected by the news, a child will often go through the entire gamut of emotions in the weeks to come.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
The experienced family law attorneys at R&S Law Group in Orange County are dedicated to helping you through this difficult and emotional process. If you are considering filing for divorce in California, contact us today for a free consultation.