Should You Tell Your Children You Are Getting Divorced?
The answer to this question is really more when you should tell your children you are getting divorced. Eventually, even a very young child will find out Mommy and Daddy do not live together anymore. What is important is to think about a number of considerations before sharing the sad news with your children. Here are some tips to help you think through and decide how best to share the news about the divorce.
- First and foremost, you should, as parents, work together to decide when it is best and when how to tell your children about the divorce. Hopefully, as a couple, you will be able to put personal animosities aside to formulate what needs to be said. Telling the children by putting the blame on one or the other parent is never a good idea. Children love both parents and deserve to have that love returned. A child of any age, and that includes adult children, should not be made to choose between parents or to think of one parent as “good” and the other as “bad.” If there is already another love in the mix, it becomes more difficult, but careful planning can minimize the fact that parents no longer love each other. Emphasize that though the parents are no longer in love with each other, they will always love their children.
- It is vitally important to consider the ages of the children involved. Children process information differently at different ages. The younger the child, the less likely they will be to understand what divorce means. Older children will know that parents will no longer live together and that even they, the children, may have to move to another living situation. Most states now have parental timesharing, so minor children will have basically the same amount of time, including overnights, with each parent as well as sharing holidays and vacations.
- Not only is it important to consider the ages of the children involved but to consider the dynamics of the family and the individual personalities of each child. Sometimes a child will be very attached to one or the other parent and will be devasted to learn that parent will no longer be with them on a daily basis. It may even be that a child will need professional counseling to help them through the divorce process.
- Very young children do not need to be told about the divorce until near the final stages of the case when new living arrangements are being made unless one parent is obviously going to be absent for long periods of time. Children under the age of one will adjust as needed as long as their environment remains nurturing and loving. Elementary-age children will often be devastated by the news of a divorce and will need a lot of extra time, attention, and love. There may be acting out of anger and sometimes even blaming themselves for the divorce. As mentioned above, professional counseling can be very helpful. Teenagers and adult children will also be affected as their world in relationship to the family will never be the same again. Take time to talk with them and listen to their concerns and continue to give heavy doses of TLC.
- Finally, it is important to plan carefully when, where, and how you tell the children about your imminent divorce. Sometimes it is best to tell each child separately; sometimes, it can be a family conversation. Both parents should do the telling, and it should be at a time when there are no other planned activities. Perhaps after a meal or during a family get-together will be a good time. Try to keep emotions at a minimum and, above all, assure the children they are and always will be loved and cared for by both parents.
Telling children about divorce is never easy. Take your time to plan and consider the steps shared in this article. Keep loving your children and provide a safe and caring environment where they can continue to share their thoughts and concerns about the divorce and what life will be like following the final judgment.