Making the decision to get divorced is never easy. Divorcing parents have to balance a tricky line between honesty, self-advocacy, and doing what is best for the kids – all while managing their household and keeping their career afloat. Add the potential conflict and hostility of divorce, and you’ve got a complex situation with no perfect solution.
In this blog, we will look at some of the strategies experts recommend for discussing this sensitive subject with children. Be sure to also read our next blog for ways you can protect your children during the divorce proceedings.
Make Sure Your Kids Hear it From You First
During the stages preceding the official divorce filing, parents are often navigating personal differences that result in feelings of anger and hostility. These issues can leak out of the marriage and into the couples’ shared social network. Friends may take sides or gossip without knowing little ears are listening in.
Children are good at intuiting when something is wrong, and they may overhear adults talking about a pending divorce without understanding what it means. If your children hear rumors about your divorce from their friends, it can be confusing and traumatizing. Even though you might dread discussing divorce with your children, it is best to get ahead of what they may hear elsewhere and tell them yourselves.
Plan The Conversation
You can improve the content and tenor of sensitive conversations by planning out what you will say ahead of time. Try to anticipate questions the children may ask so you can have honest but appropriate answers prepared. Experts recommend waiting to tell children until a time when they will be able to process the information, such as over a weekend.
Having the conversation together with your spouse shows your kids that, even though you are getting divorced, your joint role as their parents is not over. It allows you to model cooperation in times of conflict, and will help you and your spouse maintain integrity in your framing of the divorce. If you and your spouse are unable to sit down and have the conversation together, bring in a friend or a counselor as a mediator.
Explain What is Happening and Why
You do not need to tell the kids all the gritty details of the divorce, but if you mince words or avoid discussing the real issues, they will be confused and may even blame themselves. Frame your issues in a non-blaming way. Experts recommend using phrases like, “We didn’t want this to happen, but we want different things,” or “We have tried very hard, and we still want to be friends, but we can’t fix our marriage.”
Give Kids a Plan and Leave Room for Feelings
Let kids know what they can expect over the course of the upcoming weeks and months. The less you surprise them, the better. Let them know which parent is moving out, and reassure them about the things that won’t change – school, pets, friends. Then sit back and give them room to react. Children may cry, yell, or have other emotional reactions, or they may not react at all. All of this is normal. Divorce can feel frightening and overwhelming, and children need time to process their emotions about it.
Work with a Wheaton, IL Divorce Attorney
While you and your spouse are the ones who must take responsibility for helping your children through the divorce, you can save yourself unnecessary anxiety over the legal elements when you hire an experienced Dupage County divorce lawyer. To get help planning your upcoming divorce, contact Stogsdill Law Firm today at 630-462-9500 to schedule a confidential consultation.