The decision to divorce is a serious one, hopefully made with careful consideration for all parties involved, especially the children. According to Scientific America, about 1.5 million children in the United States are affected by divorce. Fortunately, the vast majority of these children do recover with time, love and support. Research finds that while children of divorce generally do well, they do even better when parents minimize their kids' exposure to the conflict of divorce. While you can't keep children from knowing about the upcoming separation, you can help them understand what is happening.
When talking to children about divorce, we recommend the following:
- Have both parents present if possible the first time you tell the children about the divorce. "Psychology Today" found that kids benefit from a united message when parents accept responsibility and act mature in delivering this news.
- Give thought to the setting and circumstances when you break the news, because children will remember this day for a long time.
- Keep their ages in mind when talking about the upcoming changes. You should consider telling all the children together so that no one has to keep secrets or break the news to younger siblings.
- Let children have their feelings, even if those feelings seem confusing to you. Don't assume how your children will react to the news. There may be both positive and negative feelings, such as being relieved while mourning the loss of their family.
- Answer difficult questions honestly as possible, while keeping in mind the child's age.
- Don't disparage the other parent.
- Reassure your children that you still love them. Tell them the divorce is not their fault. You may have to repeat this sentiment often. Allow children to process their grief in their own time frame.
- Look for community support. Make sure family and friends don't disparage the other parent and are positive toward the kids. Get a good counselor who can remain unbiased.
Legal issues can often take years to settle. For a child, a never-ending divorce is uncomfortable and interminable. Don't think you have to win at all costs. When you decide to divorce, end it quickly. The ones who lose the most are the children.
Above all, don't make your children a sounding board for your marital problems. Talk to your attorney, your minister or a friend. Experienced divorce attorneys handle all types of divorce cases, including spousal support considerations and highly contested litigation. They can give you peace of mind while you're going through this stressful time.