Deciding to end your marriage is a hard decision. Telling your children about it might be even more difficult. But as parents in California have discovered, the way you approach the topic can help them begin to accept and understand the coming changes.
The conversation needs to be a collaboration
While you and your spouse will no longer be a couple, parenting will continue, and collaboration between the two of you on issues related to child custody is usually best for the children. This collaboration should start before you announce your decision to the children when you and your spouse plan how, when and what to tell the children.
Be careful about what you tell the children
You and your spouse should be honest with the children, but present a united front, so that the children feel that you are both still committed to being parents, even if you are no longer together. Some of the things you can address when you speak to the children include:
- The actual news of the separation or divorce providing only necessary, appropriate details
- Any immediate changes that will happen, such as a parent moving out of the home
- Assurance of your unconditional support and love for the children
- Reassurance that the divorce is not the children’s fault
Choosing the right time and place
Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement on what to say to the kids, you need to decide when to speak to them. Ideally, you want the family to sit together, early in the day, in an environment where the kids feel safe. The reason to speak to the kids early in a safe environment is to allow them time to begin processing the news and to let them ask any initial questions they might have.
Children will process the news differently. Be ready to answer all their questions and provide comfort as they deal with the news.