One of the hardest things a parent will ever do, outside of informing their children a parent has passed, is telling their children they’re getting a divorce. While it will depend on your own circumstances, there is a best way to let your children know about the divorce – which is to do it together. However, that is not always possible. The important thing is to ensure that the kids aren’t afraid, that they know what is going to happen from here on out, and that they are safe.
Do It Together
If possible, set aside a time for a family meeting so that you can inform the children together about the divorce. Often kids already know something is up, and it's going to make them feel a lot more relieved if you tell them together. Before you tell the kids, work with a counselor to practice how you’ll let them know.
Don’t Place Blame
When you do tell the kids, don’t place blame even if it is clearly one person’s fault. That other person is your child’s parent, and you don’t want to make them feel bad about that. Just tell them that you’re going to divorce but that it’s not about them, and you’re both going to be okay too.
Reassure Your Kids It’s Not Their Fault
Almost all kids, even adults, think their parents' divorce is somehow their fault. They think if they were better and didn’t cost so much or didn’t cause fights, then their parents would stay together. Of course, this is not true, but that’s what they think. Therefore, it’s essential to verbally tell your kids that it is not their fault even if they do not ask.
Demonstrate Your Love for Them
Both parents should sit with their kids, hug them, and look them in the eyes with love on their faces. The kids need some extra cuddling and affection after hearing something like this. A tickle party for younger kids, going out for ice cream for bigger kids, and a cuddle and a movie for teenagers can go far.
Explain What Will and Won’t Change
When you tell your kids about the divorce, make sure that you also explain how it’s going to be moving forward. Where they will live, where the parents will live, how often they will see them, and how it will all work needs to be discussed right away, because they’re going to be worried about it if it’s not addressed.
Give Them Time to Get Used to the Idea
Some kids will react very strongly about the news. Others will seem unaffected. You really won’t know for a while. Let them get used to the idea. Let them know that they can ask you questions if needed if they are worried about something. But mostly leave them alone for a bit while they get used to the idea.
Go to Family Counseling
One way to tell kids is to take them to family counseling with you and your soon-to-be ex so that the counselor can help you tell them the right way. Also, a counselor can help identify the best ways to reassure individual children who are having issues. Plus, they can help you emotionally too.
Offer Individual Counseling If Needed
Let children know that if they want to talk to someone not in the family about their feelings regarding the divorce, you can set them up with a personal counselor who can help them. Kids - especially older ones and teens - have a lot of feelings they don’t want to share with you because they don’t want to hurt you. A stranger who is trained can help a lot.
The truth is, when parents work hard to get along post-divorce for the sake of the kids, the kids end up doing great. They tend to thrive, and some even do better post-divorce if their parents are also doing better. Of course, every household is different, but if you work toward putting the kids first and letting them know without any surprises what’s happening, they will end up fine even if it gets bumpy - because you’re going to help them get through it.