Before you have the hard conversation with your kids, make sure you’re prepared. Learn more about how to tell your child you are getting a divorce here.
Divorce isn’t fun for anyone, and for most couples, the decision to part ways doesn’t come without a lot of careful consideration and long, difficult discussions.
It’s especially difficult to have the divorce discussion with your children. When divorce is imminent, many parents struggle with how to break the news.
Divorce presents a very emotional, confusing time for kids of all ages. They may have mixed feelings of relief at the prospect of parents no longer fighting all day but also great sadness and difficulty coping.
It’s so important that parents take the time to talk to their children about impending divorce so that they are more prepared for the process. You may be struggling with how to tell your child you are getting a divorce because you worry about how they will respond.
Though telling your kids about your divorce isn’t going to be easy, by using these tips you can help soften the blow and help them through this challenging time:
How to Tell Your Child You Are Getting a Divorce
If you’re struggling with how to tell your child you are getting a divorce, one of the most important first steps is to be honest and upfront.
Your child is probably already aware that you and your partner have not been getting along for a while. Explain to them in short and simple terms that their parents no longer get along and are going to separate.
Children and teenagers tend to put a lot of the blame on themselves when their parents are going through a divorce. They will wonder if they might have prevented their parents’ divorce had they only been better behaved or more obedient.
Reassure them again and again that the divorce is in no way their fault.
Resist any urge to place blame on your children’s other parent as well. This goes beyond the initial talk and well into the future as they come to terms with the divorce.
Your kids don’t want to feel like they have to take sides or favor one parent over the other. Keep negative thoughts about the other parent to yourself.
Don’t Limit the Listening
After you’ve broken the news, children will probably have a lot of questions that they need to be answered and feelings of their own that they need to share. Be willing to listen to each child and their worries about how the divorce will change their lives. Acknowledge their sadness and be understanding. Talk them through their feelings as they come up and don’t interrupt.
Let them know that you understand if they are feeling angry and hurt. Tell them that you will be there to listen any time they want to talk about the divorce and how it makes them feel.
Reassure Them of Your Love
Make it clear to each child that the divorce won’t change the way their parents feel about them. Emphasize how much you still love them and always will. This is very important for children of all ages whose foundation is shaken when their family unit is changed so dramatically.
If they act out verbally or physically, try to put your own anger and frustration aside. Continue to reassure them that you won’t ever stop loving them. Reassure them that they will always be your child and that the divorce doesn’t change that.
You may be surprised to find that your child takes the news of the divorce much better than you anticipated only to be blindsided the next day by intense emotions about the split.
Be patient with your child as they slowly come to terms with this big change. For most children, it can take years for them to fully accept the divorce. Show sympathy as they work through their many emotions.
In the weeks and months following the divorce, children and teenagers will find comfort in routine and stability. Help them see that everything in their lives doesn’t have to be turned upside down because their parents are no longer living under the same roof.
If you have a tradition of pancakes for breakfast on Sundays, continue that tradition. If homework is always done after dinner followed by story time, keep up the habit. If you always make it to their soccer games, continue to do so.
Keep enjoying the same fun family activities that you’ve always enjoyed together, even if both parents will no longer be present. If you’re able to continue some traditions in a friendly manner with your ex present, such as attending dance recitals or graduation parties, even better.
Many changes will be unavoidable with two households instead of just one. Communicate to each child what they can expect in each home moving forward.
Seek Professional Help
Once you’ve decided how to tell your child you are getting a divorce and have had that first conversation, don’t be afraid to seek additional professional help. Knowing how to tell your child you are getting a divorce can be so tricky and the reactions can be hard for any parent to work through without help.
There are so many trained therapists and counselors who have helped countless parents and kids as they work through the complicated emotions tied to a divorce.
If you feel like your child’s behavior has changed drastically for the worse since you broke the news, therapy may help. Your child might feel like they can’t be open and honest with you about some of their feelings because they don’t want to hurt yours.
If they have a neutral person to share their feelings with, it can encourage their ability to come to terms with the divorce. A therapist trained in treating families dealing with divorce can be a great resource for your child.
You can find recommendations for a good therapist by asking friends, family members, or even your divorce attorney at your family law office. Divorce attorneys often have helpful resources to assist families through the divorce process.
More Positive Parenting Tips
Talking to your children about serious subjects can be difficult, but as long as they know you love them, your relationship can remain strong.
For more tips on how to talk to, play with, and teach your children, follow our blog.