Once you’ve started the process of discussing divorce with your spouse, it might seem like the biggest hurdle is over, but those with children know that this isn’t the case. While talking about a separation is incredibly difficult for married couples, the conversation is even more challenging for those with children. For many couples, explaining a divorce to their children is even more terrifying than saying it out loud to their spouse for the first time. Although there is really no easy way to broach this topic, being prepared and showing that you are still united in your care for your children are essential. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you plan to discuss a divorce with your children.
Although you might not have all of the answers yet, it’s important to discuss certain specifics with your ex. A lot of anxiety can be reduced from the start if you show your children that this is well thought out and that their needs will be your primary concern. For example, you will want to outline where your children will live, if they will remain at the same school, how much time they can expect to spend with each parent, and so on. The most important piece of this initial conversation will be to show that decisions about your children are still made jointly between you and your ex. This will help establish consistency, which is important to children.
Although it can be tempting to placate your children with promises that things will remain the same, it’s beneficial to be upfront about the upcoming changes. They will probably have a new schedule, with time split between you and your ex. Ideally, they can stay in the same school, but that might not be possible. If you can clearly communicate the changes they should expect, they will be better prepared for the divorce.
There’s no doubt that this will be an emotional conversation. Your children will probably have some questions that you might not want to answer. Do your best to be upfront with them, and explain that you will try to help them understand.
After you’ve had the conversation, it’s important to monitor your children for changes in behavior. If they are surprised by the divorce, there is a chance that they will have a delayed reaction that can show up in different ways you might not expect. If you believe that your child would benefit from speaking to an impartial source, it can be helpful to work with a therapist or other specialist. Remember to emphasize that you are always available for a conversation and follow up questions whenever they need to talk.