Everyone hopes their marriage will last forever but the cold truth is different. In the United States alone, 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Not only is the process difficult for adults, but it can be devastating for children.
One of the hardest parts of getting a divorce is having to tell your kids what is happening. Depending on the age of your children it can be an easy or a hard conversation. Here are a few tips for talking about divorce with your kids.
Make Them Comfortable
Before you begin trying to explain anything, you need to make your little ones as comfortable as possible. The memory of being told about their parent’s divorce sticks with kids’ long past childhood. So make sure your kids are comfy, and that they are ready for the news. This is a moment your child will likely never forget, depending on their age, so make sure it’s a comfortable moment.
You may think it’s a great strategy to tell the oldest kids first then explain to the younger ones later. However, this can create a lot of tension between siblings and can lead to older kids blaming the younger siblings or vice-versa. The best thing to do is to sit down with the whole family and have an open discussion about what is happening and why.
An open discussion will also help you address how your children are feeling about the divorce. Some kids will feel relieved that the tension or hostility will end while others may be very upset and negative. Do not try to sugarcoat what is happening. Be honest and truthful and make sure your children understand that what is going on isn’t their fault. If they are too young to understand, make sure you pay attention to them as things progress as younger kids will react time passes. With older kids, answer their questions and help them if they don’t know how they’re feeling.
Don’t Draw it Out
Unless there a reason, a very good reason, make the divorce as quick and simple as possible. A long divorce can be very difficult for kids and may lead to more difficulties with kids acting out. Teens are especially at risk of dangerous behaviors as a result of a divorce, including drinking, drug use, sexual promiscuity, and even petty crime. While 90% of burglaries aren’t solved, many other crimes are easily solved and lead to many issues later in life. Teens should be given extra time and support during a divorce to ensure they stay safe and don’t suffer any lifelong problems. A divorce is not a competition to win and if you insist on drawing it out because you feel you need to win everything, you’re likely causing your kids more harm than good.
When not to Tell
The previous tips are good rules for making divorce easier on your children. However, there are instances where it may be best to keep a possible separation or divorce a secret from children. The main reason would be to protect them from an abusive spouse who may try to hurt them. Another reason would be if you suffer domestic violence, assault between persons in a domestic relationship. If you feel your children would be endangered if you told them, prioritize their safety.
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved. Don’t make it harder on your kids than it already will be. Tell them gently, answer their questions, and let them come to terms with it in their own way.