Telling children about divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, according to many parents who have been through it. As Milwaukee divorce attorneys, we see hundreds of concerned parents each year, and we’re often asked, “How do I tell my kids?”
Now that that’s out of the way, we wanted to know what child psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals had to say that could make things easier when you’re telling children about divorce – and here’s what we found.
5 Tips for Telling the Kids
1. Tell them together. You may not want to spend much time with your soon-to-be ex, but most experts agree that it’s best if you two present a united front when you break the news. Kids need to be reassured that you both still love them and that you’ll still be there for them – and that’s tough to convey when they aren’t face-to-face with both of you.
2. Be honest. While you may think you’re minimizing your kids’ discomfort by giving reassuring answers like “Everything will be fine,” they need more than that from you. They’ll ask you tough questions, and according to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Arnold, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy of Greater Columbus, you need to answer them honestly and age-appropriately.
“Nothing makes divorce better for children… they need to know the details and to receive answers to questions. Parents do best when they reduce the confusion by being truthful,” says Arnold.
3. Take responsibility. Avoid blaming your ex, even though it’s really difficult to do in the early stages of divorce. If you both accept responsibility for what went wrong, it’s easier to present that united front to your kids – and it’s easier to work your way through the entire divorce.
4. Don’t assume you know how your kids will feel. Some kids are relieved; others are shattered. Play things by ear. Remember, after you and your ex have tackled the difficulties of telling children about divorce, their feelings and opinions may change.
5. Be careful about your timing. If you’re merely considering divorce, don’t mention it to your kids. Wait until you’re certain before telling children about divorce – that will cause a roller coaster of emotions that may not even be necessary.
If you and your soon-to-be ex are having a hard time telling children about divorce, or if your kids are having a difficult time coping, ask your Milwaukee divorce lawyer if he or she can recommend a counselor or therapist who can help. Sometimes a little outside perspective can make a world of difference.