There may be tears. There may be anger. There may be silence.
You can’t predict what your children will do, say or feel when you reveal to them that you’re getting divorced. At that moment, the comfort and stability of their world is shattered, replaced by uncertainty, insecurity and fear.
Before saying a word, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse need to carefully plan when, where and exactly how to reveal the news. Both parents must agree to stow their emotional baggage and be the grown ups, calmly and confidently reassuring the children that they will be loved and cared for through any and all of the changes about to happen.
“It’s not divorce that scars children. It is the way parents approach divorce,” says Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?. “If you realize the emotional scars and wounds can be life long, then you need to put parenting first and leave behind the anger, hurt and spite,” she says. “Don’t let your vindictive hatefulness color everything you do and say. It will be the kids that suffer the consequences.”
Find a spot that is familiar and comfortable for everyone such as the family room or kitchen table. Turn all phones, televisions and computers off. Both parents must forget their personal pain and resentments. The kids need to see a mature, united front. They need to know from day one that both parents will be there for them. Remaining calm and focused will help all involved.
“The life your child has known will never be the same. You need to choose your words and actions wisely,” Sedacca says. “You don’t have to have all the details yet. No one does. But show them your devotion to them through the whole ordeal.”
To ease things for everyone, five messages must be emphasized to your kids over and over again during this first conversation and throughout the difficult months ahead. They include:
Lee Nelson spent 21 years as an award-winning reporter in Iowa, and now freelance writes for magazines and websites out of her home in Chicagoland.