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What Your Children Need to Hear About Your Divorce

By | - July 9, 2019

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

Telling your kids about how babies are born or why bad things happen to good people is hard. Telling them why you are leaving their mother or father is harder. However, it is a necessary conversation and there are no good or bad versions. All versions are shades of bad. Nothing will be more destabilizing to a child than to find out that their parents are separating and that they will no longer live with both of their parents in the same home. With that in mind, embarking on what to say to your children requires forethought, planning and compassion.

While you are trying to muster up the strength and the words to explain this major life change to your children, it is likely that you are also dealing with tremendous anguish yourself. For you to reach the conclusion that your marriage is over, you must have thought of the idea of leaving your spouse for a very long time and considered all of the different alternatives. So while you are doing your best to manage your own grief, you now need to figure out how to share this information with your children and then manage their grief too. The goal should be to ensure stability in your child’s life by creating a smooth transition and only implementing new routines that cause the least disruption.

Your children will likely have a negative reaction, so I created 3 tips that might help you navigate this difficult conversation and cause the least impact on your children’s lives:

Tip #1: Be on the same page for a joint conversation
Speak with your spouse and plan on identifying what the two of you can agree on in a joint conversation so that the children do not receive conflicting messages. If you can gain the agreement of your fellow spouse, write down the talking points so that neither of you deviates from the objective of the conversation.

Tip #2: Be brief, concise and heartfelt
Allow for silence, questions and crying. It is OK for you, as the parent, to cry as well. Let the children know that there will be many questions that need to be answered, but that you do not have all of the answers. Let them know that you are there to support them. Invite the questions, and promise answers, but explain that the answers will require some thought. Let them know that there will be changes, but that the two of you will do your best to minimize these changes. If you will be sleeping in a different room or at a different address, let the children know soon so that they can anticipate and understand the changes to follow.

Tip #3: Communicate that everything is OK
Tell your children that this is OK and that there is no need to be mad at either parent. Let your behaviour match your words. Continue to demonstrate to the children the continued love, affection and closeness that you have with your children. Now is the time to increase your closeness and communication with your children. Nothing can be worse than a rupture in a parent/child relationship stemming from separation. Invite their raw feelings to be shared, such as fear, upset and even anger directed towards you. You can let them know that this was a decision that you did not take lightly and that the changes that will happen are the best for everybody in the family.

Telling your children that their parents are going to divorce is, in simple terms, bad news. There is no way to make this into a positive announcement. So when you enter into this conversation, recognize that you are simply trying to mitigate the damage that this news will cause. Do not have any expectations of how this will result. Be empathetic. Be mindful. Be patient.

Everything passes, even the sting from the delivery of bad news.

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