Telling your kids that you’re getting separated or divorced from their father is probably the toughest conversation you'll ever have with them. No matter what their ages are, it’s never easy to explain to them the reasons behind this decision or the changes that will happen once the other parent leaves. That’s why we want to help and prepare you for this conversation if you’re getting a divorce. Before we get into it, you must know that you’re not alone and you’re strong enough to get through this. Yes, the situation is difficult, but you’ve got this.
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It would be ideal if you and your spouse could work out together a way to inform your kids about your decision. This conversation will always be memorable to your children for the rest of their lives. That’s why you want to put everything aside and have a civilized conversation with your spouse to decide how you’re going to tell your kids.
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Plan What You’re Going to Say
It is best to plan together as parents when, how, and what you’re going to tell your kids. Try to do this together so that your children understand that despite everything, they come first and they’ll always remain a priority. Break this news to them on a weekend to allow for some family time. Moreover, avoid telling them on holidays, special occasions, or before bedtime or school. If, however, you’re unable to sit together to deliver this news, seek the assistance of a mediator or divorce counselor to help you manage this situation. Never attempt to tell your children about the divorce in an impulsive, emotional moment; you will regret the consequences.
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Don’t Assign Blame
When you’re telling your kids about this shocking news, avoid the temptation to develop a blaming narrative, especially if you’re telling them alone. We know you want to tell them the truth, be it “your father cheated on me” or “I no longer feel safe or loved around your father.” However, this is not about you or your spouse; it is about the support and reassurance your children need at this critical time that’s going to change their lives forever.
Share Reasons with Them
Although you shouldn’t tell them every little detail about why you and their dad won’t be together anymore, it is their right to know why you’ll take this life-changing decision. According to your children’s ages, you can decide how much information you can provide. To stay on the safe side, avoid providing any personal details; instead, go for general explanations without getting into the details. Go for something like, “your father and I never hoped for this to happen, but we’re no longer happy together” or “we both want different things in life, but we’ll always stay friends.”
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Explain What’s Going to Change
After breaking the news to your kids, you need to set expectations of what’s going to happen next. They need to know how drastically their life will change. Start by telling them what will remain the same then explain the changes they’ll have to cope with. For example, they need to know which parent they’re going to live with and how they’ll spend time with the other. They’ll also need to know if any changes are going to happen regarding their schools, neighborhood, or sports activities.
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Keep Reassuring Them
Kids tend to be too sensitive, especially when it comes to their parents’ happiness and well-being. They might start blaming themselves for your divorce and feel like they’ve done something that caused this to happen. Reassurance is key at this point. Your children need to know that it’s nothing they did or could have done that could make this marriage work. Moreover, reassure them that they’ll still go to school, spend time with their friends, and have birthday parties. However, try not to promise things you may not be able to fulfill so you don’t disappoint them.
Expect All Kinds of Reactions
Every kid perceives things differently according to their personality. If you have more than one child, expect to see different reactions from them. One kid may start crying, the other may rant and shout, and the third may just keep it all in and suffer silently. Their reactions also differ according to their ages. Older kids may be a little more understanding and curious, so expect infinite questions from them. However, things can be harder to swallow for younger ones. No matter what their reactions are, always be reassuring, supportive, and calm.
Give Them Enough Time to Process
You probably know that this shocking news is too difficult for your children, especially if you grew up with divorced parents yourself. What you might not know or remember is that your kids may need some time to process what’s happening and cope with the sudden changes. It may take them weeks, months, and even years to completely and fully grow out of their disbelief or denial.
Finally, as a parent, facing your children with such shocking news is the last thing you ever want to do. Nonetheless, life can force you to do things you never thought of doing. Even though this divorce may be difficult in the beginning for you and your children, things will start to look up soon and life will be good again. Trust the process and believe in yourself.
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