How to tell the kids about divorce will firstly depend on their age. But the answer to the question whether you should tell them at all when they appear too young to understand is yes.
Do tell them, talk to them, even when you believe they will not get it.
Then over the next few weeks or even month, just keep an eye on your child to make sure that he is coping as well as possible.
If you see any changes in behaviour don’t be afraid to mention it to them. Remember some children won’t have the vocabulary nor the maturity to express themselves so they may need you to do it for them.
Tell her that you have noticed that she is finding it difficult to fall asleep ever since daddy moved out.
Acknowledging this is an easy and quick way to not only open the door for some conversation around the divorce, but will also most likely normalise his behaviour or feelings which in turn may help alleviate their concerns and worries.
If your children are at an age where they are likely to recall the moment you told about the divorce, then you need to keep this in mind and be ever more careful in the way that you handle it.
Please avoid putting the blame on either parent, even if it’s their fault in one way or the other. It may help you and make you feel vindicated and like the good parent but it really doesn’t help your child at all.
So here are some point on How to Tell the Kids about Divorce, each one is discussed further in the video below.
- Choose the right time and place to tell them but avoid bedtimes or a couple of hours before bedtime. It would be best to tell them at a time of day where you can go on to spend the rest of the day with them so that they can ask questions if need be and begin to digest the news with you in the room or in the vicinity.
- Choose a place that they’re familiar with e.g. at home. Avoid making it a special occasion or special new venue.
- Don’t assume that the children know why you’re separating. Tell them why but avoid going into the nitty gritty details no matter what age. Remember you’re the parents, the adults in the room and it’s towards you that they will turn for comfort, care and as a container for their anxieties, fears and sadness. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to look after yourself and get yourself a good support system.
- Tell them together if at all possible. If not then let the other parent know when you are going to tell the kids about divorce. If you tell them without the other parent then let him/her know that you have told the children. This is not for your ex’s benefit but for your children.
- Again, if possible, agree on what exactly you’re going to tell them. You will need, for their sake, to keep a united a front as much as possible. This just helps them feel more secure and taken care off as opposed to being fed different stories from each parent. This is very hard to do especially if you’re the one who has been left – but it’s not impossible.
- Tell them it’s not their fault. There’s nothing they could have done to stop you both from beginning the divorce process just as there’s nothing they can do to fix it. This may need to be repeated several times over a long period of time for the younger ones who are still at the developmental stage of their lives where they see the world from an egocentric point of view.
- Remind them that they are loved by both parents and the separation is not because of them. Sounds very cliched but you will be surprised how often this is not done and how parents assume that the children know this.
- Acknowledge, verbally, the pain that they are going thorough. If you’ve experienced divorce yourself, tell them but at a later date when they will be able to hear what you’re saying. If you tell them at the same time as you’re telling them about your own divorce, it becomes about you. This is not the time. They will be much more receptive later.
- Be honest with the children. Don’t give them false hope. If you’re not getting back together, let them know. Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. Better to say, “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that now,” than promise them that you will see them everyday when you know that won’t be possible. Be honest and as open as you can.
- Don’t be be afraid of showing them that you are upset too, within reason of course, it gives them permission to be know that it’s ok to be upset. But please don’t allow them to become your carers, especially as you go through the divorce process or divorce proceedings. Don’t turn them into little adults that need to make sure that mummy is ok or that daddy has had dinner. It’s not their place to do that.
Soila is the founder of The Divorce Magazine and creator of the five-star-rated online course – Parenting after Separation
She is known for taking away the pain of trauma and loss in children, adolescents and their families.
Soila holds an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology from UCL (University College London), is an accredited Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) practitioner and a trained Family Mediator.
Soila is Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society.
You can contact her on 07850 85 60 66 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org