Talking To Your Kids About Divorce
Molly Rumbelow, November 16, 2018
We know that going through a divorce is never going to be easy, or very pleasant.
Using a tool for communication like ours will help take a lot of the conflict out of the situation, but unfortunately, we can’t take all of the emotions away from it either.
And emotions will be riding especially high when it comes to talking to your kids about the divorce. The good news, however, is that there are some ways that you can help the process.
By thinking carefully about how and when you communicate, you will be able to lessen the amount of conflict your kids are subjected to and are a part of.
Your kids will pick up on issues, no matter how hard you try to hide them.
The first, and arguably most important, point to make is that your kids will probably pick up on a whole lot more than you may want to them to. While some of this will depend on their age, even the youngest children can sense tension in the air.
With this is mind, think deeply about how you can preempt any questions your kids may have or have a plan in place for dealing with specific events that could happen over the process of your divorce.
For example, keeping an open discussion about living arrangements can help to stabilize your kids’ situation. While they may not be interested in the finer details of real-estate – letting them know timelines if they are going to be moving or starting to visit their other parents’ home will help them to feel like they are part of the process.
Advance planning of conversations to have with your kids can help you to prepare for difficult questions. It can also help you to make sure that you are able to take as much emotion out of your answers as possible.
It can be very tempting to try to have a ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude for the sake of trying to maintain a normal home life, but watch out for trying to gloss over the cracks too much. It will inevitably make the situation much more stressful for you, and your kids will pick up on this and feel like they are part of the problem.
Allow your kids a safe space to express themselves.
While you should be careful to keep your emotions at bay during conversations, it is also very important to allow your kids to express any emotions they are feeling. Creating a safe space where they can get angry or become upset will help them process the events that are happening.
You may need to repeat conversations more than once or answer the same sorts of questions asked from slightly different angles. While rehashing certain topics may be the last thing you want to do, allowing your kids to feel like they can keep getting reassurance about issues will help in their adjustment process.
Don’t let your kids become the go-between.
Once you and your partner are living separate lives, work together to make a solid plan of communication for when your kids are with the other one. It goes without saying you’ll want to speak to your little ones when they are away, but by putting rules in place, you can make sure they still get the quality time they need and deserve with the other parent.
Don’t use your kids as a go-between in communication between you and your partner. Phrases like ‘let your mom know…’ or ‘tell your dad to…’ may seem harmless but they further strengthen the feeling of separation your children may have and could force them into becoming the middle man.
Don’t let their worlds become fully separate.
Encourage your kids to talk about their experiences with the other parent as much as they like. You don’t want them to feel like the things they’ve seen and the times they’ve shared with your ex-partner have to be a secret.
Instead, get excited for their experiences – ask lots of questions and let them let you into their ‘other world’. Depending on your circumstances it may not be possible to share parenting time just yet, but by sharing experiences, your kids won’t feel quite so separated.
Lastly, try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Here’s the thing – no one ever has or ever will get this process 100% right.
Every situation is different, just like every child is. There will be times when it will feel like you can’t say anything right, and there will be times when it will feel overwhelming for everyone involved.
But as long as you keep communicating to your kids and reassuring them that this doesn’t change the love you as parents hold for them – you will all make it through this process.