As a parent, you dread the moments you have to demonstrate to your child that the world is not a perfect place. Your kid needs to learn at some point that not all moms and dads will be with each other until death do them do them part.
Ideally, it is better for children to learn about the concept of divorce before witnessing what it’s like with their parents firsthand. However, you never know how long your relationship is going to last. If you have to break the bad news to your kids and they have little to no prior knowledge of divorce, there are a couple of areas to keep in mind to minimize your child’s pain of processing the break-up and to use it as an educational opportunity.
Plan the talk carefully
You and your ex-spouse’s divorce is not something you cannot just bring out of nowhere casually. You need to plan a session where you and the other parent can talk to your child about the upcoming split. Having the talk in your house would give your kid the room they need to process it and would avoid showing their discomfort in public.
You and your ex-spouse need to plan this talk together because you want your child to see that you two can put aside your differences for their needs.
You need to be careful in choosing what you want to talk to your kids about. If your kid has any questions on the split and what will happen from here on out, be as honest as you can. Knowing what will happen from here on out can help them process the split better. If you have more than one kid, try to avoid telling one over the other because of an age difference. No matter how old they are, they deserve to know what they have to deal with going forward.
One area that is tricky to talk about is your relationship to your partner. It is natural for your kid to want to know why your parents are not getting along. Simply telling them that the marriage did not work out is fine enough. If you were specific on why you cannot be with your spouse and demonstrate some animosity about the situation, it can make the process more difficult to your child and can be used against you when determining child custody.
Any strategies you used in the big talk should be used when discussing the divorce with your child afterwards. Avoid any controversial statements about your ex and help them understand how the proceedings will go. Separating from your spouse might give your kid a sense that you are disconnecting from them as well. Try not to make them feel that way by showing them that you are still there to help and teach them important life lessons.
You could also use the opportunity to teach them about other topics connected to divorce and marriage to help them prepare for their future such as prenups. However, you should be careful when you want to talk to them about these subjects.
Being upfront about divorce with your child can help them process the difficult situation better and can help them prepare for the future. It is also important to build that trust if you and your partner have potential disputes over child custody and your kid has to talk to the court about which parent they should be with. Regardless of how your divorce proceeds, you should help your child adapt to the circumstances as best as you can.