Talking to your children in a divorce situation is one of the most important things you will do during your marriage breakup. While there is no exact science to this type of conversation, and certainly the age of the children and their sensitivity and maturity levels are factors, there are definitely a few guidelines you can follow that will help to keep your discussion productive and as positive as possible for you, your spouse, and your children. If you are able, it can be extremely helpful to enlist the services of a divorce mediator who is skilled in family counseling, but by sticking to a few simple rules, talking to your children in a divorce situation can be a helpful step towards navigating your divorce proceedings as smoothly as possible.
First, you will want to be sure to talk to your children together with your spouse initially if at all possible. Children are usually very sensitive to discord in the family and likely have picked up on tensions within the household. For the sake of the children and for as amicable a situation as possible in going forward, if both of you can assure the children that you will both do everything possible to make this situation as comfortable as possible for them such an initial conversation will go a long way in maintaining good relationships within the family. This is also an important foundation for your future relationship with your ex because often for years to come the two of you will need to consult with one another about issues regarding the children and to work together in scheduling on a weekly basis as well as for holidays and summer vacations. As you probably know, children can have quite a vivid imagination, and it is very easy for them to assume the worst and build up unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety if they don’t know what’s going on. Talking to them early on helps them to build trust with you and enables them to feel confident that this stressful time will be handled by their parents in the best way possible.
You will also want to avoid talking about any unnecessary details regarding the cause of the divorce. Make an agreement with your spouse before talking to your kids and discuss the level of detail to be disclosed. Anything that does not have to do with the logistics of how their daily lives will change does not need to be brought up. Children are usually most concerned about where everyone will be living. Lastly, prepare for strong emotional reactions. No matter how the discussion goes, it is likely that your children will be dealing with many emotions, whether during the talk or after. Preparing yourself for this will make these reactions much easier to deal with.
Again, a divorce mediator is a good idea as a long term plan to handle your divorce proceedings, but these guidelines should give you a good start towards a productive and honest conversation with those you care about most.