Timing and technique are vital when talking to the kids about divorce. When moms and dads manage these discussions appropriately, they can help protect their children from unnecessary stress and emotional trauma.
Preparing for the Talk
The memory of finding out about their parents’ divorce stays with many children for the rest of their lives. The shock and trauma that kids sometimes experience when they first discover their parents are divorcing may adversely impact their psychological development. By adequately preparing for the discussion, parents can help their kids navigate the substantial changes in a healthy manner.
The best time to tell children is approximately two to three weeks before the parents separate.
In preparing to tell the children about the impending divorce, parents should:
- Try to talk to the children as a couple without anger or loss of temper.
- Plan to have the talk at the beginning of the weekend to allow the children time to process what they have been told.
- Speak to their teachers before telling the children so that they are prepared for any reactions the children might have.
- Tell children the basics of who will be living where and explain that sometimes they will be with Dad, and sometimes they will be with Mom.
- Be ready for any questions or reactions that may arise after the children have processed the news.
- Have a second talk a few days after the first to discuss more details about the changes that will occur.
Children Need Reassurance from Parents
Both parents should work together to reassure their children as they adjust to the split. Children should be encouraged to maintain a strong relationship with both parents when possible. Each parent should respect the children’s relationship with the other parent. The children’s exposure to conflict between the parents should always be minimal.
Depending on their ages, children will have a different level of understanding regarding how their parents’ divorce will affect their lives. Children may react with anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. Parents should watch for and address these reactions. Some children may be relieved upon hearing of the impending split, especially if parents often fought in their presence.