Divorce is never easy. For many people, it's one of the hardest things they'll ever do—and it gets even more complicated when children are involved. It can be challenging to know what you can say to your kid to help them process the dissolution of your marriage and maintain their mental health.
In today's blog, we're covering the factors you should consider before talking with your kid about divorce, and how you can help your child holistically process the divorce.
Plan the Moment You Tell Your Kids About the Divorce Carefully
In 2016, Vice published a great article exploring how people often remember the moment their parents told them they were getting divorced in vivid detail, even decades down the road. It probably won't be any different for your child, so plan when you break the news to them carefully.
Much of how you tell your child about the divorce depends on your relationship with your spouse. For many children, seeing their parents present a united front helps them deal with the divorce, but that's not always possible when the parents are estranged.
If you and your spouse are amicable with one another or intend to be functional co-parents, try and tell your child about the divorce together. Prepare a script that covers the questions your kid is likely to ask (more on that in a minute).
If you and your partner are estranged, you may need to tell them separately. If you can, come up with a script you can each use, so the message you give your child is consistent. Your child will want stability, and having both parents broach the divorce in the same way will help keep them grounded.
Lastly, make sure you know what's going on in your child's life before you tackle the topic of divorce with them. The age of your child plays a big role here. The older your child is, the more likely they are to have other things going on in their life. For example, if your child has relationship issues of their own, you may want to wait a while before telling them about the divorce. Try and keep tabs on your kid's personal life so you can find a good time to tell them about the divorce.
Prepare for Your Child to React Immediately
Children react differently to the new their parents are divorcing based on a variety of factors, including age and maturity. Your child may lash out at you. They may be quiet. They may even blame themself for the divorce. As 31-year-old Booker said in the Vice article,
"Months of pre-emptive peace work, which culminated in me blasting Tina Turner's "Let's Stay Together" from my bedroom, had all proved hollow."
Children are not emotionally ignorant. Most of them are aware when their parents are struggling with one another, and may even blame themself for the divorce.
So, how can you prepare?
First, it's important to utilize all the resources at your disposal. For many people, dissolving their marriage is one of the hardest things they'll ever do, but you don't need to do it alone. You shouldn't be afraid to use external support resources, like a family counselor, to help you, your spouse, and your child navigate the divorce.
Before breaking the news to your child, it may be wise for you and your spouse to meet with a psychologist specializing in developmental psychology. They can help you prepare for how your child may react given their personality, age, and maturity.
Once you've braced for how your child may deal with the news, you need to prepare for the questions they'll ask. Your answers should be a part of the script you come up with for telling them about the divorce. Questions your child may ask you include:
- Do you still love me?
- Do you still love each other?
- Will we still be a family?
- Where will I go to school?
- Is this my fault?
- Where will I live?
The more prepared you are to answer those questions, the easier it will be to talk with your kids about the divorce.
Preparing for the Long-Term: Creating a Support Network
Dealing with divorce is a lot to ask of anyone, much less a parent. We mentioned using external support resources like a family counselor to help you maintain your mental health during the divorce, and it's just as important to build a support network around your child.
Your child may not feel comfortable talking about the divorce with you, especially if it's stressing you out. So, talk with their teachers and coaches. Talk with their friend's parents. Let them know what's going on. These are individuals who can play a mentoring role in your child's life, helping them navigate the divorce and giving them someone else to turn to for support.
Dealing with a divorce is never easy, but taking the steps listed in this blog can help you and your child remain stable throughout the process.
At Conti Moore Law, PLLC, we help clients tackle divorce head-on. To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about how we can help you handle your case, contact us online or via phone at }.