Divorce can be very complicated, and associated with a whole lot of finger pointing, blames and guilt. It is even more difficult when children are involved. This is because, the divorcing parents do not only have to think of themselves, but also of the implications it may have on their children emotionally and all.
Most parents dread the thought of talking to their kids about the forth coming marital separation, as they are unsure of what the reaction of their children would be. All parents would want to shield their children from pain or hurt, but issues like this shouldn’t be withheld from the children.
The paramount thing to consider is how the message of divorce is communicated to the children, as this will be imprinted forever in their memory. Research has discovered that there are three factors that will help children of any age adjust after a divorce. First, children must have had a good relationship with both parents. Second is good parenting, while the third is minimal exposure to conflict.
Children based on their maturity will tend to handle the information differently; discussion should be tailored according to how mature the children are. Teens for example may need more details on the issues surrounding the divorce, while younger children may need reassurance that the divorce is not their fault.
When talking to your kids about divorce;
1. Timing is necessary
You don’t want to tell your kids that you are divorcing, and later end up not divorcing. If you are considering a divorce, keep it to yourselves until you know for sure. You don’t want to create unnecessary tension. There will never be a good time to break the divorce news, but when you finally do, ensure you have a lot of time to stay close to your children, comforting and giving them reassurances.
2. Break the news to them together
No matter the tension and bad blood that must have developed between you two, you will want to put that aside, and break the news to your kids together. Both of you must have agreed on what to say, and how to say it. Do it in such a way that does not portray rejection on both your part. This will also avoid confusion as the kids will only hear one version of the story. This demonstrates that it is a mutual decision.
3. Be honest
Breaking this news to your kids may leave them hurting and heartbroken. Pass out the message in clear and simple terms. Do not try to soften the pain, by avoiding words like ‘divorce’, or separation. Do not use alternatives that will end up not passing the clear message. Do not give them the details of the split, but rather talk to them about how the divorce will affect them.
They will want to know if things will remain the same or change. They may have questions ranging from where they will live, to whether they have to change school, which parent will they be staying with, and any other question. Give answers to these questions in the most simple and clear manner.
4. Avoid blaming the other parent
At this point, every one is tensed up and anxious. The worst thing you can do is to start pointing fingers or making your kids feel that the other parent is to be blamed for the divorce. Creating this kind of impression at this time, may cause the children to hate the other parent and have a negative impact on how they think.
Avoid asking kids to choose between parents. This can damage their emotional well being. Focus on what is best for your kids, and ensure that they receive love from both parents.
5. Be open to their reactions
Do not be surprised if you kids start showing unusual behaviour. Be prepared for any kind of reaction. It is perfectly normal for them to feel sad, insecure, frightened or even confused after hearing the news. They may also display rebellious or naughty behaviours. Others may become too clingy or attention seeking, while others may act indifferent about the whole thing.
Regardless of the reaction they put up, be patient with them taking it one day at a time. Reassure them of the love from both parents, listen to their grievances, and answer any question they may have.
6. Seek professional advice
During this process, children may display a lot of negative emotions such as anger, indifference or even withdrawal. Handling all this may prove to be difficult for the parent. An option is to seek professional help. Involve a neutral person who could be a school teacher, coach or a counsellor who can encourage them to express their feelings freely. It may also be beneficial for the court to mandate counselling sessions for the kids.
This process can most be traumatizing for your kids if not handled properly. It doesn’t have to be worse than it already is. Don’t forget to reassure your kids of your love. This picture will be imprinted in their memory too.