Any couple going through a breakup has to deal with telling others about the split and processing this news with the people in their lives. For married couples with children, the most important audience for this news is the shared children from the marriage.
Approaching the topic of divorce with kids should not be a rushed, hurried process for a divorcing couple. The manner in which you and your co-parent handle this process can have lasting effects on the children for years to come. When safe and possible to do so, take time and use resources to prepare to share this life-changing news with your kids.
Advanced planning makes a difference
Every child will process news of a divorce in their own way. As a parent, you know how your child reacts in stressful or challenging situations, so consider the best way to begin this conversation within your family. Ahead of time, decide where and when this conversation should happen and who should participate.
If you and your soon to be ex-maintain civility, try to have the conversation as a full family unit. Showing a unified front to the children can help mitigate the feeling of the family coming apart. Despite your breakup, you will all still be a family during and long after a divorce. You can begin to send that message from the beginning by planning for a time where the entire family can have this conversation together.
Have a two-way conversation
This conversation is about more than just sharing the news of an upcoming divorce. Parents need to give their children the time and understanding to process this news in the manner that fits for them. Children respond in any number of ways, from confusion and sadness to relief and happiness. Prepare for a wide variety of responses.
Additionally, prepare to listen as much as or more than you speak. The parents need to be honest and upfront about what this means for the family, but then take a step back and listen to responses and questions. Children may have many questions, so give them the time and respect of thoughtfully listening to their part of the conversation.
Take time before major changes
A divorce can bring a world of changes to a child's life. If it's safe to do so, try to keep the family together for a period of time after telling kids about a divorce. Even if one parent stays in another room of the home for a few days or weeks, keeping the family in one household may show them that their entire reality isn't drastically changing overnight. This move can help reassure children that though life is changing it isn't an abrupt, drastic change all at once.
Every family unit has their own unique dynamic. In preparing for a divorce, consider the best options for your family and keep the focus on the wellbeing and stability of the kids. It may not be an easy or simple process, but parents can utilize resources and thoughtful planning to help mitigate the effects of a divorce on the children.