No parent is happy at the prospect of having to tell their kids that their marriage is ending. Unfortunately, around 40–50% of couples in the US have to do just that.
Although there’s no easy way to announce a divorce to your kids, you can do it in a way that prevents angry outbursts and helps them see your side of things.
Here are some tips on speaking to your kids about divorce:
1. Plan It
When it comes to announcing your divorce to your kids, winging it isn’t an option. To make sure you’re saying all the right things without overlooking your kids’ emotions, plan what you’re going to say.
Not only should you plan what you’re going to say, but you should also ensure that they have ample family time to process the situation. Don’t do it when you’re on vacation, don’t do it before bedtime, or when it’s exam season.
2. Tell Them All Together
Parents who have more than one child should break the news to their children together. Divorce is a big deal, and your kids should hear about it from you—not your other angry teenager!
Gather your kids and tell them what’s happening. Be clear about why this decision benefits everyone and provide them with the necessary information that will give them an idea of what’s going to happen.
3. Avoid Assigning Blame
As tempting as it may be to assign blame, there’s no need to do it. Blaming your spouse in front of your kids only infuses toxicity into an already stressful situation.
When you blame your spouse for breaking up your family, you push your kids to take sides—something they aren’t capable of doing rationally.
Instead of assigning blame, use the word “we” to show them that you came to this decision together. Make it clear that you tried to work through the differences, but have decided that parting ways is best for everyone.
4. Let Them Know How Their Lives Will Change
As heartbreaking as divorce is for the kids, their main concern is how their lives will be impacted.
Tell your kids where they’re going to live, with who, when they’ll meet each of you, etc. It helps to be honest and open about what you know, and what you need to figure out.
Let them know that their life in school, their friends, their extra-curricular activities, etc. will not change. Kids need to feel a sense of normalcy during this emotionally taxing time
If you’re struggling with telling them, consider getting help from a mediator or a family counselor.
Azizeh offers family mediation services for separating families in Palo Alto. She can help you and your spouse break the news to your kids so they can understand your decision.
Contact her office for more information.