Telling your children about divorce
In Part 1 of telling your children about divorce, I explained when to tell your children and why it is so important. Here are my top tips on how to tell them:
- Keep the conversation short, simple and direct. It’s usually best to start with a short and direct conversation with your children. They will need time to process what you are telling them and may then want another conversation, or many, to allow them to ask questions or seek reassurance.
- Use the words ‘divorce’ and ‘separation’ and don’t try to gloss over what is happening by being vague. This is important because if you are not clear, it could lead to confusion or leave a child still hoping.
- Be clear that the decision is final and won’t change. This is important because otherwise children may harbour a hope that things could still change and they may feel a responsibility for creating that change.
- Be clear that the decision is not their fault. Even when that seems obvious to you, children need to be told this.
- Be clear that you, the parents, will work out a plan and find the answers to all the problems.
- Be clear that your children will continue to see both of you and that you both love them very much.
- Be ready to answer questions. It’s fine not to know all of the answers, provided you show that you have a plan and will remain responsible. Remember the car analogy. You may not know what is wrong with the car or how you can mend it, but you will have a plan of how to get help and how to get to your destination. Even if you don’t know the answers yet, you will have a plan of how to find them.
- Ideally have the conversation with both of you and the children together. But if this is not possible for you, it is OK to speak to your children alone. If you do this, agree the information you will give to the children so that both parents give the same information and try to make sure each parent has spoken to the children around the same sort of time so that they have heard the message from both parents.
- Make your explanations age- What you tell to a three year old will be different from what you say to a thirteen year old. But be aware that it is never OK to treat your child like a friend. They do not need or want to know all of the intimate details. They are still your children and you are the parents - they are not your friends.
- Be ready for different reactions to the news. Some children will be immediately upset; others will take longer to process the news. Some may just carry on as usual and seem unaffected. Whatever their reaction, continue to give them love and reassurance and be open to any questions or to re-opening the conversation later.
And, most importantly, be kind to yourself. It is really hard to have this conversation with your children. You may make mistakes in what you say and you may find your children’s reaction upsetting. Don’t worry. It will be ok.
There is plenty of information in books and online about how to tell your children. My favourite is always Christine McGhee’s wonderful book ‘Parenting Apart’ but here are a few links that may also help:
If you would like to talk more about how to tell your children about your divorce please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07706 513496.