How do I Break the News of Divorce to my Children?
Breaking the news is a pivotal point in the journey of divorce and as much as you may wish to avoid it, at some point the conversation needs to take place. So here are some common questions and concerns about breaking the news.
- Should I tell them specifics of why?
- Should both parents be present?
- What can I say to reassure them?
- How long should this conversation be?
- I told them, now what?
Should I tell them specifics of why?
Be very general. Avoid getting into specific details of “why” you are getting divorced. Many events lead up to the decision to get divorced and trying to get into all the specifics would not serve the situation well.
Avoid putting the blame on specific incidents or on the other parent.
Should both parents be present?
If at all possible have both parents together when you share with the kids that you are divorcing. It’s important that both parents remain calm, and that each parent speaks during the conversation.
What can I say to reassure them?
State what your commitment is to them as a parent and that you will always continue to love them.
The Five Commitments will help both parents and children of divorce with this. Explain your commitments to them and that even though your formal marriage is ending, your role as their parent never ends.
If you know specifics about the new living arrangements, now is a good time to share them. For example a parent might say: “I will be staying at your Aunts house, but I will be picking you up on Tuesdays and Thursdays for practice like always.”
Tell them you love them and let them know that you and the other parent don’t love each other the way that a husband and wife should. Example: “We argue and yell but we love you and we love ourselves enough to stop hurting each other.”
How long should this conversation be?
Do your best to keep this conversation brief. It may be 10 minutes to an hour but usually not longer. The goal is to deliver the news and let the initial reaction to the news set in.
I broke the news, now what?
You’ll have months to talk more and heal, just be present for them now in this very delicate moment.
Be available to them and be observant. Reactions to hearing the news of divorce will vary. You know your child best, watch closely for changes in behavior.
One of the resources I have that can help in this journey is a childrens book on divorce I wrote called Felicia’s Family Divorces. Take a look and if you think it’s a good fit order a copy to share with your child.
Dr. SueAnne Magyar-Hill
Support System Inc.
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