If you are reading this you are already ahead of the game: seeking information in order to be able to educate yourself on what is the easiest way to tell your children one of the hardest things they are about to hear.
This is your first step to healthy co-parenting.
This might seem like the most challenging step to tell your child/children what their new normal is going to be (even though you yourself might not know). I invite you to speak with a social worker, child psychologist in order for you and your spouse to hear the information from the same person, in the hopes of being able to agree on the best approach to take – they are your child/children and you both know them best.
You want to ensure that your children are OKAY and that they know that you are there for them even though you are also going through something difficult.
The context in which you tell your child/children is the first decision: where and when. As for the “When”, you want them to hear it first from you and not from someone in their class, to make sure they are prepared. You want to ensure that your children are comfortable.
Their relationship with your divorce is based on how they observe you interacting and talking to each other.
It is important to find the time even in these stressful moments to play and connect with them on their level and to ensure they still feel safe, despite the fact that it might seem their life was just turned upside-down.
This will be a challenging transition for the family, but you and your spouse have the power to make it easier in how you choose to co-parent.
Be a united front – have the conversation together, it shows solidarity. If you both seem okay with it, your children will be too. Our children always look to us for validation, to see if we are happy or sad, whether they should laugh or cry.
Turn off all devices and focus and be present in the moment you reveal this upsetting news to them.
Depending on the age of your children, they might not understand the word “divorce”. If that is the case you can say: “We decided we aren’t going to be married anymore.” It is important when you tell them, that you make it clear that the final decision has already been made and that you have given it a lot of thought.
In order to spare them the disappointment, the wasted energy, or vulnerability, make it clear that the decision will not change, no matter what they say.
The script can be something along the lines of what follows:
“We want to talk to you about something important. We made an important and hard decision that we are getting a divorce OR (for younger children) that we are not going to be married anymore. We love each other, we love you both so much, and no matter what we will always be a family, but we are going to change how our family works.”
At this point you explain to them the arrangements if they have been decided. If you think that it will be possible you can tell them “We will still spend a lot of time together as a family. We understand that this is a big change, but it is the best decision for all of us.”
You need to make it clear that you will always be their parents and that will never change. Younger children may feel insecure that if you can decide not to be married anymore, you can also decide not to be their parent. Reinforce that you love them and that will never change.
Ensure to validate your children’s feelings, and repeatedly tell them how much you love them, and that this is not their fault.
If they ask why – you can tell them so now there can be two happy homes. Two happy homes is certainly better than one unhappy home. Give your children the opportunity to ask questions and give them closure before the conversation ends.
Please seek professional guidance if you are feeling overwhelmed about your divorce or need assistance on what is the best way to tell your children.
Similarly, seek professional guidance for your children in order for them to have the tools to navigate their feelings, emotions through this transition.
Read More: Co-Parenting Tools for Single Parents
We provide guidance along the way to our clients, how to approach certain challenges with your child/children along the way. It is important to take the time to give extra thought on how to handle certain situations, as your child/children are more fragile during this time. With our experience, we are here to help and or refer you to the appropriate professional if it exceeds our legal mandate.