Sharing the news of your marital separation with your children is likely one of the most difficult things you will ever do. As a parent, you want to protect your children from emotional trauma and loss, but if your marriage is not working, it could harm your children more than ending it and creating a new family arrangement. Should you and your spouse choose to separate, consider the following when sharing the news with your children:
When you tell your children about your separation is as important as how you tell them. Avoid special occasions because you do not want to spoil the occasion or cause your child to associate the bad news with the occasion in the future. Talk to your children when it is just you and them or you, your spouse, and them. If other family members or friends are present, postpone the announcement until later. Finally, choose a location in which your child feels safe.
What to Say
Every parent-child discussion about divorce will be different, but there are some things parents should be sure to say and not say to their children during the talk. Parents should focus on the positive aspects of the situation and assure the child some things will remain consistent, no matter the living arrangements of family members. Be honest about the situation, even if it hurts your child. It can be painful to witness a child’s tears and disappointment, but once the decision is made, you must be direct when talking to your children.
Also avoid blaming your spouse for the situation. Ideally, your children will view the decision as one wanted by both parents, and will continue to feel the same toward each. If your spouse has made mistakes and hurt you, it can be difficult to not lash out and use your children as a weapon. All this accomplishes is hurting your children.
Your children will likely have questions immediately following the discussion and in the days to after. If possible, both parents should spend time together with children after the announcement. Easing your children into the new arrangement is much easier than breaking the news and creating immediate upheaval.
It is possible to raise healthy, happy children in a divorced family, but it takes a bit of effort and compromise. If you and your spouse make your children your main priority, they will be able to adjust to their new family life.