Divorce is a complicated and stressful life transition with many ups and downs, uncertainties, and unexpected twists and turns, which would explain why it is ranked as the second most stressful event in an adults life according to the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale.
Imagine the painstaking and stressful process for parents who now have to tell their child or children they have decided to divorce. Stress city! Working with numerous couples who are in this specific situation has taught me many things, but the one thing that rises to the top and that I work hard to impart is before you tell your children about your impending divorce, get your ‘stuff’ together and come up with a plan.
Coming up with a good plan together is important because it is all too common that one parent makes a unilateral and selfish decision to tell their child or children on their own, without consulting the other parent, showing no regard for their feelings or the feelings of the other parent.
Two words come to mind. Bad idea.
If parents really care about the emotional and psychological well-being of their children then it is imperative that parents first come up with a plan together, without children being included. The goal being to take actionable steps that will help their children through the impending divorce in a caring and childcentered way.
Now, asking parents to actually communicate and work as a team to the best they can is a big ask (I know) and can be tricky. And I also know that I am asking them to communicate on this very sensitive subject when most likely one of the main reasons why they are divorcing is because of communication issues. That’s the paradox. But here we are.
I share with them that being proactive now and taking strategic steps will help them in the future. However, if they choose to go ‘willy nilly’ and proceed with reactive responses, trust me the outcome will not be good. The lasting effects of poor planning will stay with and affect the whole family for a long time and it will be challenging to pick up the pieces.
Thus, it is vital that parents, even when they don’t want to, present as a team and put their child or children first when they decide to talk to them about the divorce. It’s a necessary family meeting and done together. Further, when parents present this way, it will help children observe that despite the divorce, their parents are talking to them together. They are thinking, we are still a family. Both of my parents are here with me right now.
So, when thinking about what you and your spouse are going to tell your children, specific questions should be addressed and answered:
When you speak to your children remember some key components:
Finally, inform the school that you are divorcing. However, it is not necessary, nor would I recommend this, that you tell them all the details. Short and to the point. This allows teachers and other school professionals to be aware of any behavior or academic changes.
Remember like divorce, family meetings are a process and seldom one and done. What you both choose to do at the beginning and how you set the tone, will be the game changers as the entire family processes the divorce as the days, weeks, and months progress.
Learn how to put your feelings for your soon to be ex aside and your child or children’s feelings at the forefront.
Do the right thing and choose wisely.
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