Children, divorce, separation and mediation: what and when to tell them
When you and your spouse are separating, or about to divorce, how you communicate and what you actually say about this situation to your children will have a direct impact on how they perceive their future family relationships. As parents you want to protect your children and build their sense of security while not disrupting their daily routines during this stressful transition.
Chances are your children may already be aware of uncomfortable or tense family interactions between their parents. Depending upon their ages your children may even express their thoughts. So to ensure as little stress as possible on your children during this time, we recommend telling them about your intention to separate or divorce only after you have a clear picture where you both will live, who the children will live with primarily and what the parenting schedule will be. Having a plan in place before you speak with the children about divorce or separation will give them a sense of continuity during this time of transition.
Here are a few guidelines to help make your conversations with your children as painless as possible.
- Both parents and all children should be present at the time of breaking the news
- The parents should establish a consistent and coherent parental age-appropriate narrative explaining in simple terms the reason for the break-up. There is no need to tell “the whole truth”; do not include the personal details or assign blame
- Be assuring, empathetic to your children, trying to see and comprehend the impact of this news from their perspective
- Surprisingly this is a good learning opportunity to talk with young children about relationships, family transitions, joys of unions and sorrows of parting
- Always maintain parental dignity
- Acknowledge your children’s emotions, minimizing children’s stress, helping them work through this transition
- Be open to continual discussions on this topics with kids, speaking from a unified perspective about the restructuring of the family life.