Tips on How to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce
Even the most amicable separation is often painful, stressful, and emotionally charged. Going through a divorce is made doubly challenging when children are involved. There may be changes to the children’s living arrangements, as the separating parents negotiate decision-making responsibility (formerly custody). Sometimes, collaboration is simply not possible, and the parents may undergo a contested divorce, which can add tremendous stress on the entire family.
If you would like to gain more information and talk through the legalities of divorce, contact our Edmonton divorce lawyers today for a consultation.
Whatever the circumstances, once you have decided to get divorced, there is a clear first step regarding your children: letting them know. Every family is different, and there is no singlemost right way to have this conversation. However, there are some best practices you may want to consider.
Collaborate With Your Ex
If it is safe to do so, collaborate with your ex to plan the talk. It may be painful, difficult, or awkward, but talking with your kids together will show that you are both committed to your roles as parents, even after separating. If you are not able to work together with your ex because of safety concerns or irreconcilable conflict, it may be prudent to seek help formulating your plan. This can be through the support of friends and family, licensed mental health professionals, mediation coaches, Edmonton divorce lawyers, or more.
Choose a Good Time and Place
Try to choose a time and place for the conversation that will allow your children to have the space they need to process the news. It may be a good idea to avoid stressful periods of time, such as days leading up to exams or sports competitions. It may also be good to have this conversation somewhere private and comfortable, such as the family home.
Plan What You Will Say
Your children will likely remember this conversation. Try to be mindful of the information you are relaying, the manner in which you do it. If you have multiple children, ensure you tell them all at the same time, so that no one hears the news second-hand (eg. from a sibling). Begin by telling the basic information, at the level of understanding relevant to your youngest child. Later, you can have separate conversations with older children if you would like to get into more specifics.
It is important to maintain as kind and balanced a tone as possible, avoiding blame and negative talk about your ex. This can be tremendously challenging to do, but is important for your children’s future relationship with both of their parents. Even if it is not wholly true, using “we” language (“We have decided…”) can help provide your children with some reassurance that even in this separation, they still have the united care of both their parents.
Give Details - But Don’t Overshare
Your children deserve to know why the divorce is happening, but it may be inappropriate to share with them the more personal, painful details of why your relationship is ending. Reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault, and that it will not have an impact on your love and support.
Sometimes simple, firm statements can be most useful - “We grew apart,” or “We aren’t happy together,” or “We like each other but don’t love each other anymore.” Even if the reality is messy, try to create a sense of certainty and calm for your children during this turbulent time.
Receive Your Children’s Responses
There is no one “good” or “right” response to news of a divorce, and your children may react in ways that surprise you. Some kids may have a big reaction, while others may not have any discernible response at all - which in and of itself is a response. Try to be present to receive whatever they offer. Be there to receive and address your children’s questions, and try to be as calm as possible even if they react with anger or tears.
Invite your children to ask questions, but do not pressure them to do so. It can take time to receive this news, and to process feelings. This conversation is the first in many.
Seek Help For Yourself
While you strive to present a calm demeanour for your children, the reality is you are likely facing a great deal of stress and turbulent emotions yourself. Take the time you need to take care of yourself. Reach out to friends and family for support, whether that means talking through your divorce, help with meals and child-rearing logistics, or more. Speak with a licensed mental health professional, who may be able to help you process your own emotions. Remember, modelling healthy self-care is a gift to your children.
Contact Our Edmonton Divorce Lawyers Today for a Consultation
At Verhaeghe Law, our divorce lawyers understand that every case is unique. We are here to address any questions you may have on the legal process of separation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see what our team may be able to do for you.
** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of divorce law, and is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.