Divorce can be a complicated process even in the best of circumstances, and perhaps the most challenging part is deciding how to move forward as a family. On that note, telling your children about your decision to divorce is one of the most painful conversations you may ever have with them. Especially for younger children who may not understand the complexities of a divorce, putting your decision into words can seem impossible.
Where to Start
You are probably wondering where to start. How do you tell your children that their parents are going to be separated? One of the best ways to avoid saying something in hurt or anger is to plan what you will say. Writing it all out or practicing helps you keep some distance from the intense emotions a divorce can dredge up. Work with your partner, if you can, to decide how and when you are going to speak with your children. Avoid announcing the news on a special occasion or randomly. Carve out family time for you to sit down with your children and have an intentional conversation.
If you cannot work with your partner or it would be unsafe to include them in a room with you and your children, consider using a mediator or counselor to help you determine what to say. You can find resources for mediators and counselors here.
Explaining why you and your spouse are seeking a divorce can be daunting. It is best to avoid going into detail and instead explain without blaming the other parent. Older children may press for more information, and younger children may have issues digesting a vague response. However, it is best not to create a situation where your children feel responsible for mediating the crisis.
When Details Matter
Your children will need to know what specific changes will be taking place once the divorce is final. It is best to make it clear what will be changing and what will stay the same. Where they will live, who they live with, and scheduled visitation with the noncustodial parent are all crucial factors they should know before moving forward. Be honest with them about what information you know. If visitation and custody are not a conversation you have already had with your partner, you should be honest with your children about that too.
Most divorce cases result in one parent moving to a new and separate residence. It is helpful if you let your children know who will be moving out and how they will see them. Having a schedule for visitation already worked out is best to reassure them that they will have quality relationships with both parents.
In situations involving abuse or neglect, where it may be unsafe to allow one parent visitation, consult a lawyer about your options before talking to your kids. You want to protect your children, and an experienced attorney can help you put the court's word behind you to better provide protection.
Most of all, your children will need assurance that they were not the cause of the divorce. While children may have little to do with your decision, they may feel responsible. You are reassuring them that the divorce is outside of their control. However, it is important to avoid making promises you cannot keep. Reassuring your children should not include telling them things you can't guarantee. Some parents may feel pressure to promise their children that the change will be minimal. However, instead, we encourage you to focus on what will still stay the same in order to provide your children with a sense of normalcy and comfort.
How to Handle Their Questions
Children ask questions; it is only natural. Divorce is not an easy decision and is usually the result of years of built-up emotions between you and your spouse. When you tell your children about the divorce, understand that they are hearing this information for the first time and will likely have a strong reaction to it. While you and your partner have had time to make peace with your decision, your children have not. Anger, tears, and shutting down are all normal responses to divorce. Depending on your children's age, they may not fully process all of the emotions for some time. Giving your children space and time to feel is vital. Allow them to make peace with the divorce on their time, not yours.
Your children may ask questions you don't know how to answer. In this scenario, avoid telling them what you think they want to hear. Be honest and intentional with your answers. If you don't know the answer, find out. Consult a family counselor or an attorney. In finding the answers to their questions, you may find answers to your own as well.
Helping Your Family Navigate Difficult Times
Divorce is not an easy decision to make or come to terms with. We understand how difficult divorce can be, and our experienced attorney is here to help you move forward as a family. The Law Office of Pamela C. Bratcher has helped many families going through a divorce, and we are prepared to do the same for you.
Call us at (270) 977-8910 or schedule a consultation online today