39% of marriages in America end in divorce. Don’t be fooled, though. As common as divorce might be in today’s world, going through one is never easy.
It’s a long, drawn-out time of immense change, stress, and upheaval. Emotions run high, tempers fray, and challenging conversations become the norm. Throw children into the mix and the situation becomes even harder!
Indeed, just knowing how to talk to your kids about divorce can be tough. You want to explain the situation without causing unnecessary hurt; you want to be honest without going overboard. Figuring out how to do it is no mean feat.
Do you know the struggle and want some help finding the right words? You’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn our top advice for talking to kids about divorce.
Plan It Out
The last thing you want to do is blag your way through this difficult conversation. It’s a recipe for fumbling, mumbling, and mincing your words. Worse still, you risk causing undue hurt in the process.
Try sitting down in advance to make a plan of action. Thinking about what you want to say is crucial. You don’t need a set speech, but having a basic idea of what you’ll tell the kids is sure to make a difference on the day.
Think about when you want to say it too though.
Trust us, there’s never going to be a perfect time to have this talk! However, waiting until it’s late, they’re tired, or you’re on vacation together won’t help. A better bet is to do it on a weekend when you have plenty of time and the kids don’t have to worry about school.
Do It With Everyone at Once
Imagine hearing from your younger sister that your parents are getting a divorce. Or imagine finding out that you were the last child to hear about the separation. How would you feel?
Not good. That’s how.
Keep that in mind as you decide how, when, and where to tell your kids. It might not be easy (in some cases, it’ll be impossible), but it’s generally best to talk to everybody at the same time. This ensures they hear the news from you and not a third party.
Do It as a Couple
Talking to your kids as a couple might sound like your idea of hell. But it can make a big difference to your children. Put yourself in their shoes for a second…
Seeing your parents sit down in a mature, adult manner is reassuring. After all, you love them both and don’t want to see any animosity between them. You want to see them work together and commit to being your parents- whether they’re still married or not.
That’s the message you put across when you talk to your children with your spouse. It’ll make an awful situation more palatable. They’ll see you trying, appreciate the effort, and feel more secure.
Provide an Explanation
What’s the first thing you’d ask if your parents told you they were getting a divorce? We’d bet good money it’d sound something like: “Why!?”
Expect this question to be on the lips of your kids (regardless of their age). After all, they’ll want to know the reason for your decision. You don’t have to tell them the details or disclose anything personal, but they do deserve to know why their lives are going to alter.
Anything from ‘we don’t love each other anymore’ to ‘we’ve tried to make it work but we’re different people now’ could be a suitable explanation. Of course, the message will vary depending on your kids’ ages. Always try to offer an explanation that’s suitable for their maturity.
Don’t Point Fingers
Finding the right words when talking about divorce with kids can be a challenge. It may be easier to focus on avoiding the ‘wrong’ words. And, in the context of this conversation, the ‘wrong’ words usually revolve around laying blame and pointing fingers.
You might have to bite your tongue and even bend the truth in that endeavor. For example, telling your kids your spouse had an affair might be God’s honest truth. But it’s sure to cause unhelpful pain in young children and make them feel like they have to pick sides.
Whenever possible, frame this as a joint decision.
Saying ‘we’ will soften the blow. Rather than ‘he hurt me’ or ‘I’m not happy anymore’, say ‘we’re not happy together’, and ‘we think it’s best if we move on’.
Be as Clear and Honest as Possible
As we just noted, complete honesty isn’t always appropriate. Nevertheless, you should strive to be as open as possible throughout the discussion. This is of particular importance when it comes to outlining the changes that lay ahead.
Don’t go overboard, but it’s worth being upfront about what’s going to happen. From living in different houses to having two Christmases, your kids deserve to know what’s to come.
Don’t feel pressure to restrict this to a single conversation though. If you’re worried about causing too much stress and anxiety, then you could address any or all of these issues at a later date too. Change is never an easy pill to swallow; spreading out the news may help.
In the same way, make it clear that this decision is no reflection on them. Reassure your children they haven’t done anything wrong and that you both still love them as much as you did before.
Now You Know How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce
Going through a divorce is one thing. Going through a divorce when kids are involved is another altogether. After all, no parent wants to see their kids in pain.
That’s why learning how to talk to your kids about divorce is so important. Knowing what to say and when to say it can make an almighty difference when the time comes to deliver the news. With any luck, the advice in this post will help you do it in a calm, compassionate, and caring way.
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