A Difficult Conversation
Whether your child is two years old or seventeen years old, the news of parents getting a divorce drastically impacts their lives. Your child has grown up in a two-parent household, and now that household is being dissolved before their very eyes; the impact that this news can have on a child is astounding. Fortunately, how you hold this conversation can change how your child receives this news.
While this conversation is perhaps the most challenging that you may have in your life, there are several tips to consider as you prepare to share this difficult news with your child.
Plan in Advance
A conversation of this nature is not something you can hold at any given moment. You and your spouse must plan out when and where to hold this conversation as well as what you will say. Choosing the day and time that you hold this conversation is important, as you will not want to share this news on a holiday or other special occasion.
When you have this discussion matters, as well. You will want your child to be alert and able to process this news as best as possible, so first thing in the morning or late at night might not be the best time to consider.
Another important factor to plan is that your child will inevitably have many questions about the divorce. They may already start feeling insecure about their future the moment they find out that you and your spouse are ending your marriage. They may ask questions about where they will live, what will happen to you and your spouse, and if they’ll still get to see their friends. Be ready for these types of questions and try to plan out what you might say if asked.
Telling your child about divorce can leave them feeling uncertain about the future. In fact, they might feel as if the end of their parents’ marriage is somehow their fault. It is crucial to ensure your child that they did nothing wrong and that they are not responsible for the divorce happening. The relationship between you and your spouse may be ending, but your child is yours forever; remind them of this, as it may help them trust that they will still be loved at the end of the day.
Your child will have questions about what will happen to them after the divorce. They want to know that their needs will still be met and that they will still be loved even after the divorce is finalized. Anticipate these questions and reassure them as much as possible. Make sure that above all else they know they are still loved by both you and your spouse in spite of that relationship coming to an end.
Keep Your Message Simple, Clear, and Blame-Free
Hearing about divorce can be confusing for children, as they often have difficulty understanding the reasoning behind the end of a marriage and can end up believing they contributed to that end. For that reason, it’s important to try and state your points as clearly and concisely as possible to avoid confusion. At the end of the conversation, your child should know that the marriage is ending, they are not at fault for the end of the marriage, and they will be taken care of despite the change as a family
Avoid Placing Blame
It’s okay to go into some of the reasons for the end of the marriage, but be careful to avoid placing blame. Sentences such as “Your mother/father and I do not want to stay married” assign equal decision-making value to both of you and avoid accusatory sentences such as “Your father/mother makes living with them difficult, and I don’t want to do it anymore.” Phrases that place blame can lead to parental alienation, a serious hindrance to a child’s development that can contribute to future behavioral problems.
Keep Your Children First
Above all else, make sure that your children are first in your mind as you prepare for this difficult task. It will not be easy, but plan this conversation with their best interests in mind. You are getting a divorce from your spouse, not your child; remind them that you and their other parent will always love them no matter what.
Do You Have Questions?
Choosing to get a divorce is a big decision with bigger implications for your future and your children. If you are uncertain about what the future may look like, it’s important to speak with an attorney to gain a clearer picture. At Assalone & Associates, we understand how important this decision is and the impact it will have on your children. We are committed to putting your needs and the needs of your children first throughout the process.
To speak with an attorney or to get started with your divorce, call us at (401) 589-5599 or visit us online.