When you and your soon-to-be ex finally decide to get a divorce, you may be left with a whirlwind of emotions, a mixture of freedom and sadness. As an adult, you know that despite the challenges and all the things that will take some time to get used to again, you’ll manage just fine if not better than before. However, as a parent, your biggest challenge or fear may be telling your child that his or her parents won’t be married and won’t live under the same roof.
There’s a good chance that your child may already have an idea, but if you were careful to keep your marital issues a secret, your divorce may come as a shock. Even if you suspect that your child already knows, don’t avoid the topic. Handle it as a responsible adult and give the topic of divorce the respect it, and your child, deserves. A conversation with your child may not be easy, but neither is divorce. Consider these tips when it’s time to talk to your child about divorce:
Young children may know what divorce is, as they may have classmates or friends who have experienced divorce, but they probably won’t request or even need to know about certain details; older children may ask more complex questions. Either way, keep the conversation simple and positive, despite how you may feel about the divorce or your ex.
When you and your ex decide to tell your child, make sure you sit down together (even if you can’t stand one another) and deliver the news together. By sharing the difficult news together, you are reinforcing, to your child, that you both care for his or her well-being and feelings. Keep the language free from inflammatory remarks and state the facts.
For instance, if your ex is going to be moving into his own apartment explain something like, “We (Mom and Dad) are not happy together, but we are always happy to have you in our lives. Dad is going to get his own apartment and you will have a room there when you visit him on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You get to have your own room and have special time with Dad. You will still have your room here (with Mom) and can have special time with Mom.”
Your child’s reaction to the news may vary from excitement at the idea of having more things (ie. another room) to confusion and fear. While you may not have all the details figured out, make sure your child knows that he or she is not to blame for the split. You should do your best to answer any questions honestly and to eliminate fear or worry, but allow your child to have feelings of sadness or grief, too.
Major life changes are often accompanied by complex feelings that are difficult to express or articulate, so while you try to help your child work through his or her feelings, give him or her some freedom to express feelings (even the negative ones).
When the decision to divorce has been made, you may want to keep it quiet for a while, but it may be a good idea to share with other adults in your child’s life such as the parent of a best friend, a teacher or a caregiver. Raleigh divorce lawyer, Charles R. Ullman, recommends sharing the news with a teacher or a caregiver or someone who sees your child on a regular basis. He or she can keep you informed of any emotional or behavioral changes your child may exhibit during your divorce, so you can address your child’s questions or feelings accordingly.
Guest Post by Amy Patterson