Recently, I was interviewed by the editor of a piece about children and divorce. The interviewer specifically sought my recommendations on how parents should talk to their children about divorce plans. Here is a summary.
Divorce is a very stressful process. Telling your children you are divorcing is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. These guidelines can help make this difficult conversation for everyone.
1. Talk to your children together.
2. Have a plan prepared before you tell your children. The program should outline who will be moving, where and when, and when the children will see each parent.
3. You should agree in advance on what you will tell them.
4. Don’t place blame on one another. Don’t say that your mother isn’t ready to marry anymore or that your father had an affair. Instead, state clearly that the decision is mutual, even if one parent is leaving. This will help children not feel that they must choose sides.
5. If you are going to give a reason for the separation, make sure it is truthful but not too overwhelming. For example, “We haven’t been getting along.” “We’ve tried to make it work, but we decided that living apart would be better for us.
6. Reassure your children by letting them know that you love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.
7. Make sure to let the children know your plans for the when and how of the separation and sharing of custody (see item 2).
8. Let your children know they can feel anger, sadness, or relief about the divorce.
9. Let your children know you are available for any questions. While you should answer all questions honestly, it is essential to recognize that not every question needs to be answered. Do not answer questions that blame the parent or suggest that the divorce is not mutually agreed upon (see item 4).