Divorce is never easy, but it becomes exponentially more difficult when you have children. No one gets into a marriage expecting it to fail, and even if that becomes an inevitability, the last thing you want is for your kids to suffer for you and your spouse’s failings. The key is communication. You cannot hope to stay together just for the sake of the children, as that can turn a tough situation into an untenable one, and lead to much deeper emotional scars. So even if you and your ex cannot see eye to eye on anything, you’ve got to work together to talk to your kids about the divorce. Otherwise, you could severely traumatize your kids, and no one wants that. Here are a few ideas for how you can talk to your kids about the divorce and the loss your family is facing.
First of all, you’ve got to connect with your spouse and come to an agreement on how it will be handled before you talk to your kids. It is most important that you approach it as a united front, and do not use it as an opportunity to throw your ex under the bus. Go to a family therapist and discuss strategies for the conversation. Come up, with a script, so you each know what you are going to say, and understand how to take care of your children through the process best. With that groundwork complete, choose a time that you can both sit down with your kids for the big talk. Choose a day that your kids aren’t busy with school or some other important event. And definitely, choose a place where the conversation can happen in private. The last thing anyone needs at this point is an audience.
When you break the news, it is very important that you keep things positive. Regardless of the reality of the situation, make sure your kids feel the divorce is a joint decision. When they are older, there will be plenty of time to break the news about the painful realities. But now is not that time. Keep it positive, and remind your children that you and your spouse love them with all of your hearts, and want to make sure that you each have your own fun times together. Let your children know that things won’t change that much and that they will be able to see both of you when they want.
Regardless of how well the conversation goes, you should expect your child to be upset. There will be tears, and possibly some kicking and screaming. It’s a painful situation, and even if you and your spouse have been miserable together, your children will still want you to stay together. Let them know that this is the best for everyone, that you and your spouse need to be the best parents you can be, and that right now that means living in separate houses. Whatever else happens, just make sure your kids know it is not their fault. That will be their natural take on things, and you’ve got to convince them this isn’t the case.
Even after you have that initial conversation, you should expect there to be many more. Your kids will come up with questions they didn’t think of at the time, or will simply need to be reminded that everything will be okay. Always try to be as honest as possible, but remember to keep it age appropriate. There are just some things your kids aren’t ready to hear yet. But as long as you always take the time to talk with them (instead of sitting them down at a computer in front of one of those cheesy ‘click here’ websites) and put their needs first, everything will be okay. Spend the majority of your time loving your kids instead of hating your ex, and everyone will be the better for it.