On behalf of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in Family Law on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.
When a marriage breaks down, there are many difficult decisions to make. When kids are involved, parents often think about how they want to handle custody, visitation and support issues in the divorce. However, it is easy to overlook an important first step: discussing the divorce with the children.
Even if your children are aware that your marriage is in trouble, breaking the news is never an easy task. Moreover, children have different levels of maturity and different temperaments. The age of a child may play a strong role in his or her understanding of what is going on. There are some general guidelines that you can follow to break the news to the children, while reassuring them that you still love them.
Work Together For The Sake Of The Kids
While the adults have decided to part ways and lead separate lives, they will still each continue to be parents. Discussing the divorce with the children in a non-combative way and as a team can go a long way in helping the children move forward in a positive way. Even if one parent or the other handles the majority of the conversation, showing a united front can help children adapt to the news.
Put Together A Plan For How To Break The News
Because each child will have their own unique reaction and emotional response, there is no general script for parents to follow when discussing divorce with the kids. That does not mean that you should try to “wing it” when breaking the news. For the benefit of your children, sit down with your spouse and practice how you present the information. Understand that your emotions are involved. This is not a time to settle the score with your spouse – it is a time to help to reassure your children that even though the marriage is over, you are both still parents who are not divorcing your children.
Make It Clear That Your Breakup Is Not Your Child’s Fault
Understand that you do not have to explain the reasons you and your spouse are separating. This is also not a time for you or your spouse to cast blame on each other. However, many children feel guilty about the breakdown of their parent’s marriage. It is vital for you to let your children know that the divorce is between mom and dad, and to continue to reassure your child that the divorce is not his or her fault.
Be Prepared For Questions
You and your spouse have already decided to part ways, but your children need some time to come to terms with your decision. They may need reassurance in the days and weeks to come that it is okay for them to feel sad. As they process the information, many children have new questions that arise about the future. This is a good time to reinforce your love for your child. Try to avoid using the time to work out your frustrations with your soon to be ex, and answer questions from the perspective of serving your child’s best interests. Breaking the news is just the first step, and be prepared to continue to have an ongoing, child-oriented dialogue as the kids process the information.