How do you gently and thoughtfully break the news to your kids that you and your spouse are getting a divorce? While there’s no black-and-white, textbook way to have this conversation, in this blog post we’re offering some valuable tips and advice on how to handle this situation.
First and foremost, you need to understand that kids at varying ages and stages in their lives understand situations differently so it’s important to take that into account when you sit your kids down to have this talk.
How to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce
Children at a young age will have a difficult time grasping the idea of a divorce because they’re at a point where they believe that the world in essence revolves around them. Their inability to cognitively understand the situation in its entirety can lead them to develop inaccurate ideas about divorce. For instance, if the mother stays with the kids in the house they’ve always known and dad moves out and into his own home, they might think that their father left them. At this stage in their life, they’ll need constant reassurance and routine to give them a sense of stability they need to cope.
Kids at this age have a better understanding, but they still might not grasp the big picture. They could equate the cause of the divorce to an isolated event where you and your spouse were fighting or they had done something that caused friction. That’s why it’s important to explain the big picture and that this was an adult decision that had nothing to do with them. Again, reassurance and routines are going to help create a sense of stability that your kids will need at this rocky point in their life. And, while they have the ability to talk about their feelings, they might not want to. Rather than barrage them with direct questions about the divorce, consider an indirect route and ask them if they’re feeling sad or mad to get the conversation started.
Navigating middle school and starting high school can be difficult as it is for your child. At this age, your kids are slowly becoming young adults and they’re doing their best to fit in with their peers at school. They may be more distant because they’re looking for independence, you’ll still need to keep those lines of communication open. While it might seem like they’re not interested in discussing, you need to give them the space to have those conversations. You know your child best. If it makes it easier for you to approach them and ask questions, do it. If you know that they don’t respond well to prodding, take a step back and talk about something else. Constant communication with your kids at this age will help them feel comfortable to talk about their feelings when they’re ready.
Now that we have a better understanding of how your kids might perceive/cope with divorce, let’s take some time to understand how to appropriately get the conversation started and how to handle the situation moving forward:
1. Tell them together – Even if you and your soon-to-be ex are at odds and can barely stand the thought of staying together let alone being in the same room, you need to put your differences aside and handle the situation as a team. Remember this is going to be a big change for your kids so you want to handle it with grace. Try to remove as much stress and tension from the conversation as possible. Creating a united front and being on the same page is especially important at this point in your kid’s life.
2. Give them time to adjust – At first, it might seem like they’ve handled it well, but be aware that it might take time for the reality of the situation to sink in. At this point, communication is going to be key. Ask how they’re doing and encourage them to ask questions. Every child is different so do your best to work with them through this difficult time and reassure them that you’re all working towards finding a new normal.
If you need guidance and advice through your divorce proceedings, we can help.
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