How To Break The News Of Your Divorce To Your Small Children
This way, children will learn that honesty is a good thing and that it is all right to talk about problems.
Talking to children about a divorce is never easy. How much they understand will depend on how young they are at the time, so tell them things they are capable of understanding, and don’t confuse them with the complications. Whatever the age, the essence of your message should be the same: “Mommy and Daddy loved each other and were happy, but now they think they can be happier living apart. What happened between them is not your fault and they will always be there to take care of you and love you.”
The following suggestions will help you make it easier for the children as well as for yourself:
Don’t wait till the last minute to tell them about the divorce, or they will be unprepared.
Both parents should be together when they tell the children about the divorce.
Be straightforward and explain in simple language.
Tell your kids that the divorce is not their fault. This is very important.
Admit that both of you have problems and that the divorce will sadden and upset everyone.
Reassure your children that both of you will always love them, and will always be their parents.
Don’t involve the children in your discussions about the divorce, and don’t discuss the details of your problems before them.
Don’t tell them about each other’s faults.
Don’t encourage them to take sides.
Don’t fight before them.
When a divorce involves school-going children between the ages of 6 and 8, each parent must spend individual time with the children to reassure them of their love. Children at this age are very keen about fairness. They want to spend time with both parents. Yet, they also want to know who is to blame for the divorce.
Your children may express their despair through anger, sadness or aggressiveness. They may develop problems with their school-work, become bullies, or have problems with their friendships. Their stress may manifest in stomach upsets, nightmares, headaches, sleeplessness, etc. They may get overtly fussy, throw tantrums and even revert to baby behaviour such as thumb-sucking and bed-wetting. These are signs of distress, and it will be wise to consult with a child psychiatrist who will also help you learn how to handle your children when they are upset, and how to reduce the strain of divorce on the family.
Younger children may try their best to reunite their parents, but you need to show them the reality of the situation as gently as possible so that they accept and understand. To do this, each parent must separately spend time with them, and show them that they are no longer a couple. This will not guarantee that children will forgo their hopes of reunification. This is something they will continue to think about for years to come.
What if your children don’t react at all? Tell them you can talk about it another time.
It’s important for you to frequently remind your children that they are not to blame for the break-up or the unhappiness of their parents. Children tend to believe that the divorce is their fault. If they cry, let them, but make sure to hold them and comfort them.
If your children ask you questions about the divorce, answer them honestly. Give them enough information so that they are prepared for the changes ahead, without frightening them. They might want to know:
Who will they live with?
Where will the non-custodial parent live?
Will they have to move or change their school?
Will they still be able to meet their friends?
Will they be able to keep their pets?
they still go to summer camp?
Finally, children will do best if they know that their parents are getting along well with each other despite their problems. Don’t get drawn into arguments, or try to seek revenge by denying your spouse visitation rights. It will only hurt your children who need both of you. After all, you and your spouse are karmically bonded by your children; you may as well learn to be pleasant with each other.