Understandably parents belabor or avoid thinking about or preparing what they are going to tell their kids. So often, parents are just trying to survive the relationship turmoil and it’s tough to find the internal or external space to plan what you are going to tell the kids.
Fortunately, much is written about this topic and many experts agree on traps parents should aim to avoid and the guiding lights to steer this conversation.
1. Share your carefully crafted divorce story specific to the age and stage or your children and your family’s circumstances.
2. For children under 6 years old, be sure to use short sentences and concrete words.
3. Reassure your children you will always be their parents, love them, care for them.
4. Emphasize the divorce was not caused by them in any way nor is any of this their fault.
5. Let them know this was a hard decision made by parents because of serious problems.
6. Share the interim agreement about living arrangements and parenting time.
7. Emphasize you want them to have a loving relationship with both of you.
8. Let them know that you each will be okay and will make sure your children are okay.
Additionally, your kids will want to know what the separation or divorce means for them. The two of you will want to have a sense of the following and note to the children if any of the arrangements are temporary:
- What happens next
- When the separation will happen (the number of days or weeks)
- Where each of you will live
- Where they will live
- How they will see each parent and for how long
- Who will care for them
- What will happen with schools (any changes)
- How they will see their friends
- How activities will be affected
Traps to Avoid
1. Including adult details including finances or affairs.
2. Blaming or degrading your co-parent.
3. Asking your children what living arrangements they want. This places too much pressure on kids. They are welcome to offer their needs and wants but decisions are shouldered by adults.
4. Suggesting your child has to choose one parent over the other. The vast majority of kids love BOTH parents and suffer if pulled into alignment with one or the other.
5. Sugar coating a separation if the plan is for it to become divorce.
NOTE: Divorce coaches and/or child specialists help you develop your divorce story and cover the details of what to tell the kids. Visit www.cdcal.com for more information about child specialists and divorce coaches.
“What Should We Tell the Children? A Parents’ Guide for Talking About Separation and Divorce,” Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D., with assistance from Mary K. Kisthardt, J.D. https://www.guidetogooddivorce.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/resources_texasdivorcelaw_What-Should-We-Tell-the-Children.pdf