I remember the day my parents told us my dad was moving out. I was the oldest of four kids at home and even though I knew that my parents were not getting along, it was still a terrible feeling watching both of my parents cry. My dad took us across the street to the park and told us he still loved us but he would not be living with us anymore. The most vivid memory I have of that moment is my looking at my dad’s sunglasses and knowing he was crying even though I couldn’t see his eyes.
Divorce is hard on everyone, but kids can take divorce personally. One way to help children with the transition is to approach them with the news tactfully. There is no easy solution, but you can make the best of the situation.
Tell your child together: When possible, present a united front when you talk to your children about the impending divorce or separation. Talking to your kids together avoids confusion and allows your children to hear one version of the story. The transition is already going to be hard enough, confusion and bad mouthing will only make the situation harder on your children. Communicating together will let your child address questions and concerns with both of you at the same time. According to Help Guide, coming up with an explanation beforehand and sticking to it can help prevent fights and bad feelings.
Acknowledge that things will be different: One of the best things you can do is to be upfront about the changes that are coming. Because you won’t be living together anymore there will be visitation issues and maybe even the need to switch schools. Be up front about the changes and let your child ask questions and express themselves. A divorce is a major upheaval, Children will be comforted knowing you have thought things out and have a plan. It gives them one less thing to worry about.
Don’t put your kids in the middle: One of the hardest parts about being a kid with divorced parents is the guilt. It may sound silly but I felt guilty all the time as a kid. I felt bad when I spent holidays with my dad because my mom was alone but I felt bad when we weren’t with my dad because he was alone. When you start bad mouthing the other parent to your child it creates even more guilt and tension. Keep the fighting between the grownups and attempt to maintain some civility when the kids are around.
Deny broken-home-syndrome: There’s nothing more depressing than not feeling like you don’t really have a home. Dr. Phil suggests ensuring that your children have their own space at both homes. They should have a room with toys and clothes. Help your kids understand that they are not coming from a broken home, but a “split” home.
Your children will experience a lot of emotions so don’t be surprised if they start crying or even if they get angry. Let them know it is okay to feel angry or sad. Reassure them and be ready to comfort them. The best thing you can do as parents is put aside your anger and resentment for each other for the moment and consider your children’s needs.
Do you have any advice when it comes to kids and divorce?