There are a few topics we’d like to avoid when it comes to talking to our kids, and these tend to be the ones we really have to talk to them about. Besides – they always notice it when something isn’t quite right at home, in any way, and the more honest we are with them, the better it is for their mental health and future relationships.
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Going through a divorce or separation is one of these topics. It would be great if they could just understand that their parents still love them a lot, of course, even if they don’t want to be together anymore – but it’s better if they hear it from you.
Here is a handful of tips on how to have that difficult conversation with your children when you’re going through a divorce. That way, you don’t have to worry about their welfare as you can simply talk about it together.
First: Think it through
Before you call your kids over, it’s important to keep in mind that this is something that will stick with them forever.
While science doesn’t really tell us much about how exactly we’re supposed to have the conversation, it does tell us that the moment a child is told tends to stay with them for life – no matter how old they are. While they may still have a great childhood and be as happy as can be, the moment will stick nonetheless.
This means that you, as a parent, has a lot of responsibility when telling them about your upcoming divorce; give much thought to the setting and circumstances before telling your child, and never underestimate how long they’re going to remember it.
Next: Remember to answer questions
You might have talked about your divorce with your friends, family, and the divorce lawyer, but your children will still have a lot of questions after you’ve told them.
Many parents get uncomfortable around these questions and try to dismiss them by simply saying ‘it will be OK’ in an attempt to comfort them.
It’s actually much better if you try to be supportive of their painful reactions and answer the questions as honestly as you can.
Another point to this is that you should tell all of your children – and not just the oldest ones. While your intentions may be pure as you’re trying to shelter the youngest, you’re giving the oldest child the responsibility of keeping this secret.
Plus, your youngest child will understand what’s going on eventually and it’s much better to hear it straight from you.
A divorce is definitely difficult to both go through and to talk about. Try to stay in the parental role together with the other parent still, though, and don’t let this split the family completely if you’re able to avoid it.