It’s the conversation you dread: Telling your kids that you and your spouse are splitting up.
You, personally, are fine with the split. So is your spouse. You’re even on good terms. You don’t see this as an insult or a failure. You simply know that getting divorced is what you both want. You’re ready to move forward.
But you have to break that news to the kids, and you don’t know how they’ll take it. They’re young, they don’t fully grasp the adult complexities of the situation and it’s not something you’ve ever had to do before. You don’t know how to get started.
If that’s how you’ve been feeling, here are six tips that can help.
1. Know exactly when you’ll do it.
Don’t wait for a good time. Don’t randomly announce it because you can’t hold it in any longer. Pick a time, make a plan and be ready for at least an hour of conversation. Ideally, choose a time when both you and your spouse can do it together, talking to all of the kids at once.
2. Work out your thoughts on paper.
Don’t just wing it. It can be hard to think on your feet during an emotional talk. Write out your main points beforehand, think of questions the kids will ask and be ready with answers that are comforting and helpful.
3. Don’t do it prematurely.
This isn’t a game to the kids. Don’t tell them until you’re sure. The last thing you want is to announce the divorce too early, then tell them it’s off and then tell them it’s back on again. If you and your spouse aren’t completely sure, don’t tell the kids until you are.
4. Keep life the same.
Don’t throw the children’s schedules out the window. Do everything that you can to keep life the same before and after your divorce conversation. That consistency can be comforting.
5. Remember that children are different.
Consider the needs of each individual child. Is one child more likely to think he or she is at fault? Is another child most likely to feel abandoned? Is a third child going to feel concerned about moving and where everyone will live? Address each child’s needs specifically.
6. Tell everyone else who needs to know.
Having the talk with the kids is the first step, but, in order to keep life stable for them, there are plenty of other people who need to know. This could include friends’ parents, teachers at school, doctors and other medical professionals and more.
With any part of the divorce process, remember that your kids should always be your top focus. There’s a reason that courts consider the children’s best interests above all else.