A lifetime marriage or partnership is a lofty goal for many people who enter commitment status. Even if the relationship grows and reaches marital potential, there’s still so much to consider and plan. One thing every smart couple needs is a contingency plan in the event of divorce. Certainly, no one enters a legitimate marriage based on mutual respect and love with the intention of splitting at any time. But statistics show that almost half of all marriages still end in divorce. When the marriage just involves you and your partner, matters can be relatively painless. But when kids are involved, it’s a whole different ball game. Fortunately, talking to your kids about divorce isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Make Sure the Divorce Is Really Happening
There is no real scientific formula for preparing your family for an impending split. But this is an emotional time for all involved. Children pick up on emotions and problems even if fights are avoided and discussions are in hushed tones behind closed doors. Most likely some of your kid’s friends have gone through a household divorce. Kids today understand more than adults give them credit for, and they want their parents happy in the long run. So they will be open to listening and absorbing the info as long as you’re not going to flop around on a decision and continuously fuel their emotions.
Plan What You’re Going to Say
There are plenty of things in life that you can figure out as you go along, but breaking divorce plans to your kids is not something you can wing. Parenting specialists suggest certain discussions and topics for specific age groups. But regardless, all concepts should be kept simple. Some ideas include:
“We’ll always be your mom and dad, but we can’t be husband and wife anymore. We’re getting divorced. This is our fault, not yours. We will always be a family. We just won’t all live together.”
Address the Kids Together as a United Front
It’s often easier said than done to talk about the divorce calmly together – especially if the divorce is a shock to one of the partners. But if that’s possible, it’s important to be a united front for the kids’ sake. This isn’t the time for the blame game or harsh words. It is a time, however, to set the tone for how you’ll manage your own behavior around your kids during and after the divorce. Kids look to their parents for guidance and need to know that you will both still be their parents and work together even if you’re no longer married. Some parenting professionals suggest talking with kids individually, but that can lead to extra stress for the parents – especially when several children are involved. Addressing the kids together allows the discussion to happen once and be done so you can all begin the healing process.
Expect a Wide Range of Emotions – and Keep Your Cool
Children are innately egocentric beings, so instant emotions will flare. These could range from “I hate you! You ruined everything!” to “Will I still have my own room?” The emotions could also flip-flop from hating you one minute to trying to bargain the next. “I’ll agree to live with you if you buy me a pony.” Let the emotions fly and get used to saying no. Remember: You had a lot more time to get used to this than they did. They may have known things were bad but until the words are said, the kids will continue to hope the household fairy tale will never end.
Finally, be open to questions – asking, answering, discovering solutions together. It’s fine not to know everything upfront. Honest and simple reassurance is the goal here. And when you need help, feel free to contact a divorce lawyer for specific suggestions and solutions.