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How to Tell Your Children You’re Getting Divorced

August 23, 2014  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

divorcing with kids

Communication during a divorce can be extremely difficult, especially when you have to explain such an emotional situation to children. Whatever else you say, you must make sure your kids understand that even though you will no longer be together as parents, it doesn’t mean that you don’t love them, and make it very clear that it is not your children’s fault. A mediator-solicitor is an excellent choice for separating parents as they offer advice, support, and a practical method of divorce that keeps the needs of children and the family in mind at all times. Your mediator will also be able to help you come up with a plan for breaking the news to your children, and making arrangements for them following separation.

Finding the right way to tell your children about divorce is a sensitive process and one that should involve both partners as much as possible. If you’re struggling to work out how to speak to your children about your divorce, the following suggestions might help you put together a plan of action:

  1. Discuss your strategy with your ex first.

There’s no reason why you have to tell your children the news as a couple, but providing a ‘united front’ may help you to be as objective and fair as possible about the situation and avoid any badmouthing behind each others’ backs. Try to communicate with your ex and agree on a simplified explanation for your children that you can both stick to. The finer details can be explored later when your children ask for more information, but first and foremost, it’s important to make the whole situation as digestible as possible.

  1. Write out your thoughts.

Sit down and write down a few reasons and feelings behind your separation before you decide on what you’re going to say – this should definitely not be an off-the-cuff conversation. Think about what your child needs to hear, all the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of the situation: Why are you separating? What will happen now? Why can’t you get back together? What about the family home? Try to cover both the practical and emotional aspects to help your children feel secure physically and psychologically. Once you have some notes down on paper you should find it easier to organise your thoughts.

  1. There may not be a ‘right time’ but there are definitely ‘wrong times’.

Make sure your kids have plenty of time to deal with the news. It’s never easy to speak to your children about such a life-changing event, but bad timing can make things much worse. Don’t rush the conversation before you drop them off to school, or at bedtime, or before you have to go out to work – try to pick a time when none of you are stressed or over-tired, and prepare to give them space and time if they need it afterwards. Some kids may need time alone to process their thoughts, others might want to cross-examine you about every last detail, and some may find it helpful to turn to a close friend or family member to work through it all with an objective companion.

  1. Be honest.

Don’t patronise your children, no matter how young they are, and don’t try to protect them by oversimplifying the situation or by brushing over the truth to make it seem easier. Be honest about your feelings and let them know that the situation is hard for everyone involved, but that you are still a family and you are going to get through it together. Let them know that they can talk to you and ask questions if they need to, and let them be as involved as they need to be through the whole process so that they don’t feel like you’re keeping anything from them.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes.

If your parents split up when you were younger, try to think back to your own feelings and concerns. Try to see things from your child’s perspective and consider the anxieties and worries that might be going through their heads. Are they worrying about where they’re going to live? Or how often they’re going to see each of you? Do they think it’s all their fault? Or are they upset about the prospect of Christmas with divorced parents? You know your kids best, so try to tune into their mind-set when you break the news to them. Trying to keep to your usual routine can be a good way to ensure familiarity and consistency while they adjust to change.

And finally, however you choose to tell your children about your divorce, make sure you carry on talking – with both your kids and your ex. Divorce and separation can be a long process, so it helps to start the way you mean to go on and keep the lines of communication open and honest. Parenting Information Programmes (PIP) are readily available across England, which offer information on parenting apart. There are also several Resolution publications, such as Separation and Divorce: Helping parents to help children, providing practical advice for parents.

Working with a solicitor trained in mediation can be extremely useful to families and parents during separation, giving you the space to discuss any issues within your relationship and resolve disputes out of court. Divorce is tough for everyone, but you’re not alone – get in touch with the sensitive and down-to-earth family lawyers at Frances Lindsay & Co for support and advice on breaking the news to your kids, and working through your separation together. 

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