What to say to the kids?

These were the hardest conversations I ever had! I am sure that every single dad and mum dreads telling there children that they are separating.  I wish I had of had tips on what to say to the kids.  It is the most difficult and awkward situation to comes to terms with as they are the last people on earth you would want to hurt or disappoint!

My kids were unaware of the real difficulties we were going through and it was a surprise when they learned that we were separating.  I definitely had the what, hows and why’s?  How to answer them is important and having some insight and working together with your ex on what they actually want from you both post separation is the key to keeping it all together.

Below are some of the responses to many of the tough conversations you will go through.

What to say and how to say it:

Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest—but kid-friendly—explanation.

  • Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” You may need to remind your children that while sometimes parents and kids don’t always get along, parents and kids don’t stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.
  • Say “I love you.” However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework.
  • Address changes. Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won’t. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go.

Avoid Blaming:

It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, such as infidelity, but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.

  • Present a united front. As much as you can, try to agree in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorce—and stick to it.
  • Plan your conversations. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. And plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.
  • Show restraint. Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.

How much information to give:

Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, you’ll need to pick and choose how much to tell your children. Think carefully about how certain information will affect them.

  • Be age-aware. In general, younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation, while older kids may need more information.
  • Share logistical information.Do tell kids about changes in their living arrangements, school, or activities, but don’t overwhelm them with the details.
  • Keep it real. No matter how much or how little you decide to tell your kids, remember that the information should be truthful above all else.

Helping the kids express their feelings:

For kids, divorce can feel like loss: the loss of a parent, the loss of the life they know. You can help your children grieve and adjust to new circumstances by supporting their feelings.

  • Listen. Encourage your child to share their feelings and really listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.
  • Help them find words for their feelings. It’s normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.
  • Let them be honest. Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. If they aren’t able to share their honest feelings, they will have a harder time working through them.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings rather than dismissing them. You can also inspire trust by showing that you understand.

What I need from my mum and dad after divorce (from your child’s’ point 0f view):

  • I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please write letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
  • Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
  • I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.
  • Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth.
  • When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
  • Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mum and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems

Clearing up misunderstandings:

Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce, recalling times they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble. You can help your kids let go of this misconception.

  • Set the record straight. Repeat why you decided to get a divorce. Sometimes hearing the real reason for your decision can help.
  • Be patient. Kids may seem to “get it” one day and be unsure the next. Treat your child’s confusion or misunderstandings with patience.
  • Reassure. As often as you need to, remind your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.

 Give reassurance and love:

Children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your children of your unchanging love.

  • Both parents will be there. Let your kids know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents.
  • It’ll be okay. Tell kids that things won’t always be easy, but that they will work out. Knowing it’ll be all right can provide incentive for your kids to give a new situation a chance.
  • Closeness. Physical closeness—in the form of hugs, pats on the shoulder, or simple proximity—has a powerful way of reassuring your child of your love.
  • Be honest. When kids raise concerns or anxieties, respond truthfully. If you don’t know the answer, say gently that you aren’t sure right now, but you’ll find out and it will be okay.

The comfort routines:

The benefit of schedules and organisation for younger children is widely recognised, but many people don’t realise that older children appreciate routine, as well. Kids feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next. Knowing that, even when they switch homes, dinnertime is followed by a bath and then homework, for example, can set a child’s mind at ease.

Maintaining routine also means continuing to observe rules, rewards, and discipline with your children. Resist the temptation to spoil kids during a divorce by not enforcing limits or allowing them to break rules.

 

Thank you to the Help Guide for content.

 

 

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    It’s a shame really that people don’t put as much effort into marriage counselling as they do into divorce preparation. Makes you wonder what would’ve happened if…?

  2. Brett says:

    I agree, my wife doesnt even want to go down the path of marriage counselling,
    married 20 years together 27 years. Bitter pill to swallow.

  3. Annette Alexander says:

    I don’t know why if a man decides to walk out on his family because he needs “space” – no arguments or fighting, no cheating or other major issues – that the wife should have to say she is part of this decision. How does it help the kids. I chose to say that it was his decision to leave, that I didn’t want him to go and that I wanted to keep our family together. I wanted my girls to know that even if he didn’t value us as a family anymore, I did.

    • Chris says:

      Completely agree. If it is not a mutual separation due to physical or mental health concerns and difficulty of one parent coping with the situation why should it be presented as something both parents support and agree to?

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