What Do We Tell The Kids? - Family Matters Mediators and Counsellors

January 9, 2020

Parents dread hurting their children and relaying to them that your family is changing is one of the hardest parts of separation. Fortunately, there are some useful tips that will make it a little less painful if you impliment them.

Try to view the situation from your children’s perspective

As silly as we think it sounds, children worry that they will be abandoned by one of their parents in a divorce, and that they will lose them from their lives. It is important to consistently reassure the children that you will both always be there for them.

Carefully choose your timing

There is never an ideal or a perfect time to tell your children, but do make sure to choose a time when they do not have to hurry off to school or to an activity. The kids will need time with both of you to discuss their thoughts and feelings.

Stay on the same Page

It is crucial that you both give your children the same message. Do not disagree or argue with each other when you are telling the children about your plans to separate.

Tell them as a couple

Research shows that it is best if both parents can tell the children together, so that they will see that even though the marriage is ending, that you will still both be there for them.

Don’t fault one another

Do not allocate blame for your break-up or try to get the children to take sides. This puts stress on your children and it drags them into the conflict. Be mindful that casting blame on the other parent will back fire anyway, as the child will frequently side with the parent who is being dragged through the mud. Put the children’s best interests at the forefront, and this will result in better outcomes for them.

Reassure your children

Make it clear that it is not their fault and they are not to blame. Ensure that they understand that your divorce has absolutely nothing to do with them or anything that they may have done. Sometimes children think that they could be responsible for the break-up and this can cause unnecessary trauma for them.

 Don’t air your dirty laundry.

Mom had an affair. Dad gambled away the family money. These are the types of adult issues that you need to protect the children from. Keep it simple and absolutely avoid sharing unnecessary details. There will be so much for your children to process so don’t overwhelm them with an abundance of information. Allow them time to absorb the break-up and to overcome the initial shock. Let them know that you will both be happy to answer any questions which they may have.

 Tell the truth

Don’t make promises that you cannot keep to ease the blow. Stick to the facts, and gently explain that there will be some changes coming. Prepare your children on how to cope with these changes and reassure them that the divorce will not change the love that you both share for them.

Contain your emotions

The children will take their lead from you. If they can see that you are handling your new circumstances gracefully, this will set a precedent for them to follow. Remember: you are the adults in this situation and it is not your children’s responsibility to support or to comfort you. Your positive responses in dealing with adversity will teach your kids that life has hardships that they too can navigate successfully.

 Do what you can to smooth the transition for your children

  • Aim for consistency in their day to day lives. No two homes are ever exactly the same but try to keep things like homework and bedtimes consistent.
  • Do not ask your kids to spy on the other parent.
  • Avoid discussing grown up issues with the children.
  • Do not place them into adult roles such as the “man of the house”. They need to be children.
  • Do not rely on your children for emotional support.
  • Do not argue or fight with your ex in front of the kids
  • Do not bad mouth the other parent to your children, or ask them to take sides
  • Notify the children’s schools so that they have access to support elsewhere if needed.
  • Do not be shy to seek professional help for yourselves or for your children. Divorce is tough.
  • Make yourselves available to your children. Let them know that they can always come to you for support.
  • Create new family traditions.

Children are resilient and they get through separation and divorce well when they are shielded from conflict.. Separation and divorce can teach your children how to take the high road in times of difficulty. Parents are role models for their kids; and as such, your children can learn positive life lessons on how to handle tough situations if you are able to handle this difficult time well.