It doesn’t matter if you’re as hard as a rock or as soft as your favorite pillow. Divorce is a financial and emotional roller-coaster ride with many obstacles. Telling your children the news can be like climbing Mount Everest.
How you do this will depend on your relationship with them and the stress level at home. Their age, and your new relationship with your partner.
Even if you are fighting a losing battle, you need to put your conflicts on hold for the benefit of the children. They are your main priority right now.
When a family breaks apart, you need to make assurances that you will only become a different kind of unit. Talk to all in a private and quiet place. Plan your speech. Be clear and straightforward.
A consistent, non-accusatory story about why you’re getting divorced will help you. Don’t get too deep into why this is happening, and talk to a psychologist specialized in children. You need to prepare to deliver the best message.
A relationship ends because one of you has grown out of “it” or because one of you did not meet the other’s expectations. Explain that though difficult at times, this change will be in the family’s best interest. It will remove some conflict, anger, and unhappiness.
Let your children know that your separation is nobody’s fault. They must see, feel, and hear that they are the most important people in your world.
What comes next
The word “divorce” will be on everybody’s mind and lips after you reveal your intentions. They will talk about it and trample upon it. Patience is the name of the game when figuring out how to deal with so many new things.
Keep a solid parenting stance. Don’t let guilt, anger, or other people’s opinions direct you to bad choices. You will be wrangling with legal stuff. Dividing assets; trying to figure out alimony, child care, and child support.
Your children will also have their challenges. Emotional swings and the cruel taunts of schoolmates and friends.
They may feel sad, lose their sense of self and identity, get bad grades. Pull away, get angry, and have many other issues. A strong relationship between you is crucial. Be there for them, always.
- Criticizing your spouse in front of or behind your children’s backs. Somehow they will know it. You might have to bite your lips until blood oozes out. Never mind.
- Your ex is a witch only to your close friends and family. Not to the children. Don’t put them in such an awkward position. She or he will always be the other parent. Your marriage is kaputt, but you must protect your children’s connection with both of you.
- Talking to your spouse through your kids about anything other than “neutral” information. Breathe deep in, swallow hard, and reach out when you need to solve something.
- Playing the “poor me” card. When you take them home after the weekend together, smile a lot and shower them with bearhugs.
- Explain your many plans for the rest of the week. Instruct them to work hard at school, obey their mother or father, and cherish their time with either. That you love them, and you’ll be fine.
- Money-Talk unless it’s about the nickels and dimes in their piggy bank. Or, problems with their tuition and high school activities. Discuss this and let them know it’s a new situation and certain things will not be possible.
- No guilt here, please. Further issues might appear, and you must tackle them with honesty and transparency. A little humor will help you cross the mountain.
Recognize that you don’t have all the answers; you’re only human and going through a rough time too. Separating is a process; be patient and beware of promises you can’t keep.
Always communicate with your spouse to set a good example for everyone’s behavior. In that way, the children will refrain from playing mom off against dad to get attention and help.
Let time help you develop a friendship, or at least a civil relationship, with each other.
Prepare your kids to feel like they’re going through a terrifying hurricane. But if you all stay inside the storm shelter while everything returns to normal, you will be alright.