Divorce is difficult for any child at any age to deal with. There are many ways to go about telling the children that you are getting a divorce. Finding an effective way to do it is not necessarily easy.
There is no right or wrong way to break this kind of news to your children. It is going to be tough no matter how you choose to do it. However, no matter how difficult it is, assuming you can at least be in the same room together, I would suggest presenting the issue as united front and tell the children with both parents present. If there are issues of domestic violence then, of course, this won’t be effective or possible. In that case, it may be more appropriate to tell the children in some sort of therapeutic setting with a counselor present. But generally, I would suggest sitting down with your spouse beforehand and develop a plan, where you will agree in advance what each of you will say and how you will respond to the kids.
Parents should be prepared for the fact that the children, to the extent they can grasp the concept of divorce, will be angry and upset. Young children do not understand the complexities of adult relationships and they are not going to understand why the marriage has to end. If they leave the room yelling or crying, then I would suggest give them some time and space to process it. Both parents should then comfort them. The important thing is to remain calm and convey to the children that the lines of communication are wide open with respect to this issue.
Parents should also give a heads up to the children’s teachers, school administrators and caregivers about this news so that they can assist in monitoring the children if they begin to act out or experience behavior issues.
The children’s questions should be answered in an age appropriate and calming fashion. I think it is important to explain to them why you are getting divorced, without going into too much detail into the adult issues or blame placing. As I always tell my clients, you each own 50% of your failed marriage, regardless of the circumstances. It is very important to reinforce the fact that not only do the children not have any blame in the demise of the marriage, there is nothing they can do to stop it. They are neither the cause nor the solution.
I think it is also important to explain to the children how their lives will change, to the extent you know the answers. Where will they live? Where will they go to school? Which parent is going to get the dog? The children are part of the divorce. They have a right to know what is happening and they have a right to have their questions answered.
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