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How To Tell Your Kids You’re Getting Divorced

Parents always want to protect their children. Whether it’s holding your baby’s hand while she figures out how to balance, or giving your anxious teen a pep talk before he enters high school—we’re innately wired to want to help our kids.

It’s no wonder that one of the biggest concerns we hear from clients is, how am I going to tell my child that we’re getting divorced?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical way to shield your child from feeling sad, angry or confused. Still, there are ways to make the divorce discussion easier on your child.

Here are our five top tips for a more effective conversation:

  • Consider your child’s age and emotional stage. When it comes to delivery of your message and what you decide to share, age is your guide. A two-year-old will process the news very differently than a six-year-old, and a six-year-old different from a teenager. If you have children of different ages or stages, consider telling them separately. Just make sure you do it on the same day, so you don’t run the risk of one of your children hearing your news from a sibling instead of you.
  • If possible, you and your spouse should deliver the news together. If your divorce is amicable, or if you can at least work together for the sake of your kid(s), it can be very reassuring for your child to hear about the divorce from both of you at the same time. This shows your commitment to your child and helps demonstrate your intention to be a united front when it comes to parenting. Obviously, if your divorce is contentious and you think there’s a chance you’ll argue in front of your child, this is not the best approach.
  • Understand that your child’s worries will not mirror your own. Often, children are consumed with the thought of “what’s going to happen to me?” That’s normal. Your child isn’t at your level, worried about the financial burden of divorce or other adult issues. Your child is interested in how their life will change. Try to be as honest as possible, while giving them age-appropriate information. Often, just knowing they can ask questions and count on you to listen compassionately, is reassuring to your child.
  • Avoid blaming your partner for the divorce. While common-sense, it can be challenging for couples going through the emotionally charged process of divorce, to remain level-headed. One of the most harmful things you can do during a divorce is to speak negatively about the other parent. This damages your child and the bond they have with your soon-to-be-ex. It can result in your child feeling like they have to choose sides and ultimately, to parental alienation. No matter how contentious your divorce is, your duty is to value the other parent’s relationship with your child and work to strengthen that bond. If you need to vent about your spouse, do it with a trusted friend, family member or therapist.
  • Enlist help. You know your child best. If you’ve had to deliver serious news to your child in the past and it hasn’t gone well, reach out to a professional for advice. Often, your child’s school has resources to help, either a school psychologist or recommendations to child therapists. Even if you don’t anticipate your child needing a therapist, having one to call if the need arises is a smart backup plan.

The desire to protect your child from feeling sad, angry or confused, is normal, though not realistic. These are valid feelings for your child to have during this process Try to help them process through their emotions and enlist help when you have trouble.

When it comes to divorce, we have the expertise to help you through this incredibly challenging time. Contact us today.