One of the primary concerns most parents have, once they realize a divorce is inevitable, is how the end of the marriage will affect the children. As parents, we want to shield our children from pain and, of course, never want to be the source of a child’s suffering.
While it is not something you would choose, a divorce can provide an opportunity to teach children how to handle pain in the most effective manner. Telling your children about an impending divorce requires some forethought, an honest discussion with the other parent, and taking the time to answer any questions your children may have. Keep in mind that research indicates that the vast majority of parents have the “divorce” discussion in ten minutes or less.
Children Need to Hear About Divorce in the Right Way
Children need to hear about your divorce in the right way, and they need to feel free to discuss their feelings about the divorce. Be aware that older children in particular may act as though the divorce is no big deal—and may even say this. This is much more likely to be a defense mechanism to shield themselves from the pain rather than being an actual fact.
Older children are also more likely to already know that divorce is a possibility, particularly if they have heard arguments or picked up on more subtle behavioral clues between you and your spouse.
Consider the following when telling your children about the divorce:
- Try to tell the children at least two or three weeks prior to the physical separation.
- Unless you and your spouse simply cannot be in the same room together, talk to the children as a couple, working as a team. Put aside your own adult problems and focus on being parents to your children, preparing them for the divorce in the best way possible.
- Set aside a time when nothing else is going on, and nothing needs to be done or is happening immediately after the discussion. Turn off televisions, phones and any other potential distractions.
Keeping the School in the Loop
- A day or so before you tell the children about the divorce, talk to your children’s teachers so they can be prepared for any reactions the children may have.
- You can ask that the teachers be discreet with the information and that they do not question the child about the divorce unless the child brings it up.
Emphasize There are No Sides
- It is also very important to let the children know that they are free to love each parent without feeling they are being disloyal to the other parent. It is also important to tell the children that their feelings about the divorce—whether sad, angry, worried or curious—are all perfectly normal and acceptable.
- Tell the children that while things are changing, you are still a family and they still have both parents as theirs.
- If you have a plan, then share the basics of the plan with the children—who will stay in the house, who will be moving and where, will both parents still be close and still spend significant amounts of time with the children?
- A few days after the initial conversation, try to sit down again, as a family, and answer any questions that may have come up.
Help Your Child Process Their Feelings
- While you do not want to insist that the children share their feelings, do be aware of changes in behavior and try to ask questions every day or so about how they feel about the changes in their lives.
- Let your children know that it is ok to be sad, or to cry, and do not be afraid to let them see that you are sad as well. At the same time, let them know that you will all be okay, and that you will work through the pain and the changes as a family.
The primary message you want to convey to your children during these discussions is that their parents tried to work things out, have been unable to do so and that the decision to divorce is not in any way their fault. Many children feel that if they had not misbehaved their parents would not be divorcing, so it is very important to let them know the divorce has nothing to do with anything the children said or did.
When parents make a true effort to get their children through the divorce in the best way possible, the payoff can be significant.
Contact Our Lawyers Today
Telling your children about your divorce can be a difficult and highly emotional time for families. Having an experienced West Palm Beach divorce lawyer on your side throughout the divorce process can make your divorce quicker and easier, so you can focus on helping your family through all of the changes that are coming.
Contact the Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. at (561) 677-8090 or fill out our contact form for a confidential consultation and review of your case. We can help you through all of life’s ups and downs and protect your future every step of the way.