Divorce can be an uncomfortable topic no matter who you talk to about it. Before you approach a family lawyer about how to proceed, you will have to break the news to your child. It is a very complicated topic, especially since children tend to react differently to the news.
Many children take up rebellious behaviour or become more angry or aggressive – all of these behaviours will have to be addressed as the months go by, but know that these issues will not be fixed in one day. When you choose the right timing to tell your child about the divorce, here are a few things you should consider when explaining the situation to them:
1. Make sure you break the news together
Do not let one parent break the news alone, it should be a combined effort to display that while the partners will no longer be married to one another or be living in the same house, that parenthood is still a combined effort that they intend to undertake as a pair. It also ensures that they are still in charge and will not be exhibiting any complacency despite the change.
The explanation also needs to be the same to avoid any “he said, she said” confusion, there should only be one version of the story. Even though the partners may disagree on many things, speaking with the child and what to say must be what the parents come together on.
2. Ensure that the child does not blame themself
A natural reaction that children have is to suspect or dismay that the reason for the divorce may be because of them. They might not say it out loud, so it is important to state “this is not your fault” or “this is a decision we made. These things can happen to mommies and daddies sometimes, but it’s not because of anything you’ve done.” In this confusing, frustrating time, it is important to reassure the child during the divorce.
3. Do not lead the conversation into a discussion of blame or an argument
With the discussion of divorce, it can be easy for the parents to feel aggressive towards one another or to begin allocating blame either to themself or to the other partner. It is important to avoid laying blame on others at this time since this conversation is solely meant to describe the situation to the child and to clear the air about certain issues. Getting into a heated debate or at least creating the possibility of opening up an argument can make everyone uneasy and confuse the child.
4. Keep the explanations simple
Leading on from the previous point, the parents must keep the conversation simple with their child. They do not need an entire history of went may have gone wrong, when the parents’ feelings for one another has changed, etc. Explaining that the divorce is taking place, how the next few weeks will look, where the child will live and with who – should all be sufficient explanations with the situation. The parents also have to consider the child’s feelings and give them the chance to ask questions.