Telling your children that you have decided to divorce is one of the most difficult things you and your spouse will ever do. As parents, you do not want to cause your children pain. Nevertheless, it can hurt worse if they find out about it from someone else.
The approach you take to the conversation can help to lessen the pain that your children experience upon learning of your impending divorce. Psychology Today offers some ideas for handling the discussion.
1. Give a reason
Your children may feel confused about your decision, especially if they have not witnessed a lot of overt conflict between the two of you. It is fair for them to ask why this is happening, and you and your spouse should be ready to give a general answer.
2. Do not assign blame
While you should be able to give your children a reason for your divorce, you should not go into a lot of detail. To avoid provoking a loyalty conflict in your children’s minds, you should not assign blame. Rather, you should try to use the word “we” in explaining the reasons for the divorce, e.g., “we have not been able to work out our problems.”
While you and your spouse should present a united front and not blame each other, you should also take responsibility for the divorce. Make it explicitly clear to your children that it is not their fault.
3. Validate children’s emotional reactions
Children may react emotionally to the news in different ways. Some may scream and cry, some may ask a lot of questions and some may seem not to react at all. If there is no observable reaction, it does not mean the news has no effect. It more likely means that the child feels overwhelmed and needs time to process his or her emotions.
Make sure your children know that whatever they are feeling is OK. Invite them to ask questions without pushing or prodding. As the divorce process begins, ask them once in a while if they want to talk about their emotions. Keep the lines of communication open.