No matter how many times you run it through your head, planning what you are going to say, what you visualize likely will not be a happy moment in your family’s history. You wonder what your children are going to say when you tell them that you and your spouse can no longer make it work and are going to divorce. You wonder how your little one will take the news, or if your children will feel as though they are to blame. It will never be easy, but there are ways to do this that help it occur smoother.
Jeanette Moninger, a contributor to Parents Magazine, establishes a few tips for delivering this unwelcome news to your children in her article, “How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting a Divorce.” In it, Moninger anticipates the fears soon-to-be-divorced parents will have and consults authorities in both family and marriage therapy to help guide you through this difficult event.
Controlling the Environment of the Talk
Moninger, in conjunction Dr. Judith Rabinor and Dr. M. Gary Neuman, suggest ways in which you can prepare and plan to have this talk. You may not be able to control the reactions of your children, in fact you won’t want to, but you can control the atmosphere in which they receive this new in some regards.
In her section, “Present a united front,” Moniger and Dr. Rabinor suggest that it’s important to make it seem as though you are together in this decision, even you are not. Using the pronoun “we” will help you avoid passing petty blame and further disconnecting the pillars of your family. This will also project that you two are still a team in providing and caring for your children.
“Address the entire family” presents the agreement that most experts share in giving this information to the whole family at once. This way, it promotes unity in the shared experience and allows for everyone to have his or her chance at a proper response. However, there are exceptions in the article.
“Plan what you’ll say” offers a mock dialogue that demonstrates a healthy delivery of this message. You will not want to wing this conversation, and overall, it is best to relay that you are all still in this together.
Handling the Responses of Your Children
Moninger’s article then addresses what may happen after you and your spouse deliver the message of your impending divorce. Reactions will vary, and volumes could be written cataloging those various ways in which children may respond. For this reason, the key mindset to have going into this conversation is that you cannot control what your children can do but you can be ready for anything.
In the section, “Expect a mix bag of reactions,” Dr. Rabinor briefly notes that children may first wonder what things are going to change in their lives: school, sports teams, and the like. In an angry or otherwise expressive response, Rabinor suggests leaving them a cool off period or immediately comforting them, depending on what you believe to be best for your particular child.
The final section, “Be open to questions,” includes insight from the respected psychologist out of the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, William Doherty, Ph.D. He suggests that children may not know what questions to ask right away, but that they will continues flow as the divorce proceeds. It is important not to discourage questions and answer them fairly in order to promote your child’s healthy understanding.