Some conversations that you need to have with your children will undoubtedly be unpleasant or emotional. Needing to address the fact that you and their other parent soon intend to divorce will not be a fun conversation. However, it is an important one. The way that you and your spouse handle this issue can have a significant impact on how well your children cope with the upcoming changes to your family.
While working with your spouse may not be the easiest thing when you already want a divorce, if there’s one thing you can agree on, it will probably be that your children deserve protection from the stress that a divorce can cause for kids.
Discuss the specific needs your children will have
Children of different ages and with distinct personalities will have varying needs in an emotional situation. You and your ex know your children better than most other people as their parents. You need to use what you know about their personalities and maturity to determine how much information to share with your children.
For younger kids, just explaining that you intend to live separately and that they will get to spend time with both of you may be sufficient. Any explanation about why you end your marriage should be left topical and basic. Older kids may be able to handle slightly more detail and may even ask for it. You need to gauge how your children respond carefully and only give as much information as they need.
Don’t assign blame to either parent or any of the children
One of the more common emotional reactions that children have to parental divorce is a feeling that they somehow contributed to the divorce. Don’t let those concerns go unaddressed. Assume your child will have some feelings of guilt or worry about their responsibility for the situation.
Let them know that no one is to blame and that the two of you agreed that this was what would be best for everyone in the family. Neither parent should use this as an opportunity to try to make the other look like a bad person. Even in cases where divorce is the result of infidelity, informing the children of that could cause more problems than it resolves.
Give the children space to ask questions
Your kids might want to know what divorce will mean for the holidays or if they need to change their last names. They may have emotional responses that need your help for processing. Give your children a chance to speak their minds and to ask questions after you tell them your news.
When answering questions, be honest, but also know where to draw the line. Questions asked in anger, questions with answers that will hurt one parent or questions that are invasive may not require an answer beyond that certain things are private. You can always revisit these questions and emotions later as well, as the children’s responses and needs will change as the divorce progresses. You and your ex should remain attentive and communicative about how the children cope with the news.