Telling your child(ren) that you’re getting a divorce may stand to be one of the most crucial times in their development. It is important to empathize with your child’s feelings upon breaking the news. Here are some tips on how to have the initial conversation and how to ease the transition for your child during your divorce:
- Be honest
You don’t want your child growing up always wondering why his or her parents divorced and lived in separate homes. Consider a time where both of you, the parents, can sit down collectively with your child. Initially, have open and honest communication about the divorce and your relationship as parents. Let your child know that you both have not been happy living in the same house together. Assure your child that while they might be going back and forth between two homes, you will provide for them and love them the way you always have. However, be open about what changes the children should expect (e.g., schedules between homes and which of their belongings will be at each home). Communicate your emotions with your children and invite them to share their feelings too. Assure them that it is okay to feel sad or angry and that you will help them through what they feel. Check-in with your child’s feelings frequently to make them feel comfortable and encourage them to have open dialogue through the divorce.
- It is not the child’s fault
Kids and teens may be susceptible to feeling like divorce is their fault. Maybe they have heard you bicker over expenses or extracurricular schedules for the child. Assure your child that a divorce has nothing to do with them. Rather, your child should understand that the divorce was a decision based on your relationship as husband and wife.
- Avoid talking badly about the other parent
Talking badly of one another during or after the divorce may leave the child with torn and confused feelings about who their parents are as individuals. Co-parenting in separate homes requires mutual respect of one another in the child’s presence. The child needs to be able to recognize the value of each parent individually, rather than feeling conflicted because he or she hears negative things about one parent from the other.
- Be patient
The family dynamic post-divorce might take time to settle in for everyone. Your child may act out or develop new coping habits. Plan appropriately for a smooth transition. Discuss the divorce well in advance before one parent moves out. Before finalizing the divorce, allow the child time to acclimate to a second home. Involve your child in furnishing the new home(s) and allow them to decide which of their toys, clothes, etc. will go to each home. In the meantime, carry on with usual family activities such as dinners, movie nights, playdates etc. so the child has a sense of comfort throughout the process.