How do you break the news to your children that it’s over between daddy and mommy? There’s no easy way to inform your kids that you and your spouse are getting a divorce. Even if the announcement isn’t a total surprise, every child is different in how they process – and respond—to this life-altering news.
No matter how you frame it or cushion it, the conversation will likely be difficult, especially for younger ones. Oftentimes parents can overwhelm the child with too much information, without considering their emotional state.
Family therapists agree that children who feel cared about and connected with their parents are less likely to experience negative fallout and trauma from the news.
Here are a few recommended strategies that put the emotional-wellbeing of your child first.
Before you tell the children
- Make sure your own emotions are fully in-check
- Work together with your soon-to-be ex and make a plan for telling the children together
- Choose a private location to have the conversation, ideally in the family home, where the children feel safe and unthreatened
- Avoid breaking the news near important milestones, like a child’s birthday, a special holiday, or just before a big exam
During the discussion
- Begin with the positives – remind your children that they have two parents who love them very much
- Make sure you explain that your separation is not their fault. You can frame this by saying that mom and dad grew apart, and will be much happier in two different houses
- Keep a unified front, and do not assign blame. They will feel more comfortable knowing it is a joint decision
- Avoid providing inappropriate information, bad mouthing the other or giving any other “adult” details that will only complicate matters
- Expect a wide range of emotions. Tears, anger, resentment and fear are all normal. Listen to your children’s responses, and put the focus on them, not you. By accepting and acknowledging their feelings you can help minimize the trauma.
- Be truthful and consistent when telling them what they can expect in terms of living arrangements and school.
- Let them know you are both available to talk whenever they want to. Be open to their emotional needs.
After the conversation
- Expect more questions, and lots of them. Why is Dad moving away? Will I have to change schools? Will I still have my birthday party here? Try and stay emotionally connected in this ongoing dialogue and answer questions with candor and honesty.
- Be a good model for your children. Take care of yourself and try and remain calm, even during high stress periods. They will cue in to anxiety and anger, which only exacerbates their own insecurities.
- As they process the information, expect a rollercoaster of emotions. If things get really tough, you can offer to bring in a family counselor or therapist for additional support.
Divorce lawyers serving Rockland and Bergen County
Here at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we know that having the right lawyer can make a world of difference in family-related legal matters. Our skilled legal team offers compassionate legal guidance in all areas of family law.
To speak with an experienced Bergen County divorce lawyer at our firm, please call (201) 576-8134 to schedule a consultation.
Additional Resources on Telling the Kids about Divorce:
- Parents, How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting a Divorce https://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/children/how-to-tell-your-kids-that-you-are-getting-a-divorce/
- Psychology Today, How to Tell the Kids You’re Getting Divorced https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/schlepping-through-heartbreak/201509/how-tell-the-kids-you-re-getting-divorced
- Good Therapy, How to Tell the Kids You Are Getting Divorced https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-tell-kids-you-are-getting-divorced-1013165