How and When to Do It
Telling children about divorce is a difficult moment for most parents. Emotions often run high, and divorce is a life-changing transition. These factors alone make it difficult for you and your spouse. These same factors also make divorce difficult for most children. It’s usually a challenge even when both spouses believe divorce is the right decision.
Have a Plan for Telling Children About Divorce
No parent wants their children to hear about their divorce from someone else. Unless you’re speaking with an attorney (protected by attorney-client privilege) or psychologist, you can’t count on the person keeping your divorce confidential. So, be careful not to tell other people before you’ve told your children.
Professional Advice on Telling Your Children
An article in Psychology Today offers some guidelines for telling kids about divorce. The guidelines are based on studies done by Heather Westberg and her colleagues. They conducted in depth interviews of children in Utah who had gone through divorce. Here are a few guidelines based what they found:
- Choose a good setting to tell your childre This moment will last in the child’s memory. Choose a quiet space and allow for time in your schedules to be available.
- Tell all the children at the same time. Telling an older child first often makes the child feel burdened to keep a secret. A younger child will get the idea that he or she wasn’t up to dealing with the situation. Unequal treatment typically creates a bad effect.
- Be prepared for unexpected emotional reactions. Your child may be sad or angry. In contrast, some children may act happy because they’re glad the conflict is going to end.
- Get on with it. Once the decision to divorce has been made and disclosed, then get on with it. The study showed that dragging out the divorce process was uncomfortable for children.
- Talk with your children. Divorce is painful but avoiding the confusion and pain makes it even more difficult. Parents can reduce the confusion by being truthful and answering their children’s questions.
- Deliver a united message. Parents should tell their children together and in a way that sets a good example. Even though you and your spouse are probably feeling sad or upset, you should act maturely in front of your children. Also, tell them in a way that doesn’t blame the other parent. You should protect your children from feeling like they were the cause of the failed marriage. You also don’t want them to feel like they must choose one parent and reject the other one.
Are You Getting a Divorce?
Attorney Thomas Little can answer your questions and help you start making decisions so you can plan your divorce.