For any couple with children, the decision to file for divorce holds extra gravity. Concerns about how your child will cope will more than likely be at the forefront of your mind. The situation will be life-changing for everybody involved, and a turning point in the lives of your children.
Children are incredibly resourceful and adaptable, though. If the situation is handled correctly, they can navigate their way through the upheaval and come out of it in a good place. The role you play in guiding your children through the divorce process is pivotal in ensuring a healthy emotional outcome for them.
While each situation is vastly different, there are a few tips that are considered good practice when it comes to telling your kids about the divorce.
Tips for speaking to your kids about divorce
1. It’s not about them
The most important thing you can do is make sure your kids know that the divorce is not about them. You can’t reiterate enough how both parents still love them. Children will need reminding of this affirmation regularly throughout the process and into the future.
2. Choose your timing
Kids can have varying responses depending on how the news is delivered. It helps if you’re in a position where you can both sit down with your child and deliver the news together. It gives the impression that, although you may be separated as a couple, you are still united in your role as their primary caregivers.
3. Discuss the practicalities
Unexpected changes and uncertainty about the future can be the primary source of anxiety for kids. Taking the time to go through the practicalities of how their lives will change might ease their worries considerably and afford them peace of mind.
Discuss the living arrangements, how often they’ll get to see both their parents, the holiday season, birthdays, schooling, and so on. Encourage them to ask questions now and in the future.
4. Ask for their input
Offering them the chance to give their opinion and feedback will give back a sense of control in a potentially overwhelming situation.
5. Avoid any ugly details
Don’t talk badly about the other parent, play the victim, or say anything that may indicate to your child that you want them to take sides. The middleman position can have devastating effects on their wellbeing and ability to cope, both short-term and long-term.
Children love both their parents, and they must be allowed to continue a healthy and progressive relationship with each one over the years.
6. Open communication
Highlight that open communication is vital and that it’s okay for them not be okay. Communication is always important for a healthy family unit, but in adverse situations such as divorce, it’s essential.
7. Let them be children
Remember, children are not mini grown-ups, and they won’t communicate in the same way you would expect of an adult. Lengthy discussions and complex planning will not engage them. It may even cause them further anxiety.
Keep chats short, informal, and child-led. Allow them the space to change the subject if they need to and read between the lines. Sometimes kids communicate their feelings better with art or activity than words.
8. Know what’s normal and what isn’t
Each child will react differently. You know your child better than anybody, and you know what reactions are normal for them and which ones need more attention.
Some children may scream, shout, or act out. Others may internalize things and appear quieter than usual. There may be other cues to emotional distress, such as bed wetting, night terrors, sleepwalking, or reports of behavioral changes with their peers in-school or creche.
For advice and consultation in a time where positive support is crucial, contact one of our experienced divorce lawyers today.