Deciding how and when to tell children about divorce can be a challenge for many parents. There are strategic decisions to be made, such as whether you will tell the children together or separately, and how you will address questions about the divorce during the conversation. The good news is that children are resilient and if provided the right support system during the divorce, children can do well throughout the process.
Tips for helping children through the first conversation about divorce:
- Tell the children together only if both parents are able to set aside any current conflicts and focus only on the children.
- Focus on the basics such as the fact that both parents will continue to love and support the children even after the parents are living apart.
- Avoid speculating about aspects of the next phase of life if they are not yet known, such as what the exact parenting time arrangement will be. Too much unconfirmed information at once can be overwhelming depending on the age of the child.
- Do not provide children with details regarding the reasons for the divorce or place blame on either parent.
- If possible, parents should discuss with each other in advance how they will tell the children and what information they are comfortable sharing. Parents know their children best, so it is always good to develop a strategy to tell the children in a way that will make them most comfortable.
- Give the children the opportunity to share their feelings with both parents regarding the divorce. When children believe they are able to share their thoughts and feelings and be heard they will feel supported and more secure during this transition in their lives.
- Allow the children to ask any questions they may have even if some questions cannot be answered in detail.
- Try to avoid having expectations regarding how children will react to the news of the divorce. Children are all unique and can display a wide range of reactions to divorce.
- Above all else, remind the children that even though their parents will no longer be a couple, the relationship between the children and their parents will remain loving, strong and supportive.