It's time to break the news to your children: Their parents are getting a divorce. You've decided to end the relationship.
No matter how you feel about the split, you know it could be incredibly difficult for them. This change is out of their control. They'll worry about how it impacts their lives. They'll have a lot of questions, some of which may prove very hard to answer.
But first, you just have to tell them. You're not even sure where to start. If so, here are a few tips that can help:
- Tell all of your children at the same time. It doesn't matter if you have two children or eight. Get them all together and do not leave anyone out. Do not try to do it one at a time. You may think those one-on-one conversations feel easier, but doing it that way means you run the risk of some children learning about the split from their siblings, and that can be traumatic.
- Pick a setting that is comforting and familiar. You need to help calm their fears and put them at ease, and where you tell them makes a big difference. At the same time, you must understand that they'll always remember this conversation. Think about what you want the location to be in that memory.
- Don't drag it out. Only tell the children after you and your spouse feel 100 percent sure you will, in fact, divorce, and then move quickly through the process after you tell them. Making it take longer just makes it more difficult.
- Never make assumptions. Understand that children react differently than adults and they may surprise you. For instance, you might assume that the kids will want to know why you're getting divorced, as another adult would, but the kids may just ask questions about where they'll live and if they have to go to a new school.
- Don't blame anyone. That means not blaming your spouse. It obviously means not blaming the kids; they may even blame themselves, so you want to go out of your way to reassure them. Tell them you love them. Work with your spouse to deliver a unified message from both of their parents.
- Be honest and answer the questions they ask. Don't tell them about the divorce and then refuse to talk about it. Don't inform them that the reasons are none of their business. Instead, be prepared for a long conversation and take the time to give them honest, compassionate answers to all of the questions they have.
After you break the news to the children, you need to know what legal steps to take to move forward, what rights you have and how you can focus on the children's best interests.