It’s unavoidable that divorce will impact your children in some way, but with the right planning and consideration, you can help minimize that impact and help them overcome any fears they may have surrounding the divorce.
According to family psychologist, Lisa Herrick, 75% of divorcing parents spend less than 10 minutes talking to their children about their divorce.  That is truly unfortunate. Children are likely to remember the day you tell them and what you say for the rest of their lives, so it’s important to spend plenty of time planning, and even more time answering their questions and making sure they feel secure.
Before You Tell Your Children About Your Divorce, Make Time to Plan
Put your conflicts aside for the time being and sit down with your spouse or partner to make a plan. All parents say they love their children more than anything and this is the time to show that this is really true. Talk in-depth about how much detail you and your spouse or partner will share with your children and when you will share it. You should break the news together. If you’re having trouble working out what to say and how to say it, you may want to consult a child therapist for ideas.
Think Carefully About Where You Will Tell Them
Everyone has memories associated with particular locations. Keep in mind that your children will remember that location as the place they were “told” for the rest of their lives. Both parents should agree on a place that is comfortable for your children and private.
Control Your Emotions While You’re Talking with Your Children
It might not be easy to do, but it’s important that you control your own emotions. Talk with your spouse in advance about how you can both accomplish that. Your children will be worried about their security and if they see either of you falling apart it will scare them. Do everything you can to control your emotions because you don’t want to undermine your child’s sense of security. Make this 100% about your children.
The Blame Game is Not Productive
Don’t place blame on each other when telling your children. While it might feel good to one spouse or the other to try and get the children to align with him or her, it’s self-centered and not in the children’s best interest. Leading your children to align with you hurts them. Children need to love and feel loved by both parents. Asking children to take a side against a parent is not productive – it’s unfair to your children.
Always Be Open and Available to Talk
Your children will have a lot of questions and they should be encouraged to ask anything and everything that concerns them. Don’t sidestep their questions. Answer the best you can without making negative remarks about the other parent. If there is or was an extramarital affair it may be best to consult a child therapist, because generally those details should not be shared with children.
Both parents should check in daily to see how the children are doing. One sibling may do well and another may not. Make sure you are completely tuned in to how your child or children are doing. Spend time alone with each child to reassure them that everything is going to be worked out.
Encourage Outside Support for Your Children
After you tell your children, find family members or friends who have been through a divorce and with whom your child feels comfortable sharing. Look for someone who can make the divorce feel more normal for your children and who can share divorce stories and situations if necessary. Encourage your child to seek peers whose family has been through a divorce and ask them questions. Schools often have support and discussion groups – see if your children’s school has one.
Treat Each Other with Respect
Show your children that you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can get along well enough to treat each other with basic respect. The two of you will be dealing with each other for decades to come, and the steps you take now to be civil will have a huge impact on your family relations in the future. Plus you’ll model polite, respectful behavior for your children. If you are rude or impolite to your spouse, your children will also be rude and impolite to others, regardless of how you tell them to behave. Actions are more powerful for children than words.
Divorcing with Children? A Seattle Divorce Attorney from Integrative Family Law Can Help
In a divorce with children, there are extra steps you’ll need to take before your divorce is final. In Washington State, these extra steps include taking a parenting seminar, creating a parenting plan, and deciding on issues concerning child support.
Your children’s best interests need to be considered every step of the way. Our approach to divorce is holistic. We’ll work closely with you to help minimize conflict and help achieve the best outcome for your family’s long term well-being. Call 206.859.6800 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Seattle divorce attorney.
Herrick, L. (n.d.). Guide to Telling the Children about the Divorce. Retrieved from http://lisaherrick.com/separation-and-divorce-work/guide-to-telling-the-children-about-the-divorce/