Telling Your Children

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

Divorce is hard at many different levels.  One of the hardest parts is telling your children that their parents are divorcing.  Though there is no one right way to tell them, there are many wrong ways.

Children should not be told when you are angry or upset.  They should not be told the reasons for the divorce.  They should not be told in the presence of friends, or right before an important event.

Ideally, both parents, together, should tell the children.   The message should be short, reassuring, and include affirmation of the parents’ love for each child.   Children need to know that they will continue to be cared for and what plans, if any, have been resolved as far as parenting time and living arrangements.  If terms have not been worked out, the children need only be told that the parents are working on the specifics.    When it is not possible, for whatever reason, to tell the children together, the parent who tells the children should notify the other.  That way, both parents are on the same page about the children knowing, and the message relayed.

Location for telling children is a strange thing.  Some children will always remember the location where they learned of their parents’ divorce, and so they might not ever want to return to it.  For example, if the parents tell a child at his/her favorite restaurant, that might turn the child’s preference against the place.   A room in the house can create a similar memory for a child.  Timing is also memory driven.   Children should not dread every Christmas, for example, because that is when they were told.

After the big step is made to tell them children, they will continue to need reassurance.   Check in with them emotionally.   See how they are doing, ask if they want to talk about what they are feeling.  Usually, more than anything, they want to feel heard, be received with empathy, and be reminded that everything will be okay.    As part of this, there are several books that can be read, such as:

“My Mom and Dad are Getting A Divorce” – Florence Bienenfeld

“The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce” – Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

”The Kids’ Book of Divorce – By, For and About Kids” – The Unit at the Fayer Weather Street

School/Eric Refes, Editor

“Divorce is a Grown Up Problem – A Book About Divorce for Young Children and Their

Parents” – Janet Sinberg

“Growing Up Divorced” – Linda Bird Francke

 

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