By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
All divorcing parents dread having the tough “break the news” talk with their kids. It’s a complex, deeply emotional conversation that can break your heart while testing your parenting stability.
Before tackling this challenge, I encourage both parents to read my ebook: How Do I Tell The Kids About The Divorce: A Create-a-Storybook Guide For Preparing Your Children – With Love! It prepares you physically, emotionally and psychologically for what to expect and how to respond.
Be aware that the questions don’t end there. During and long after the initial conversation your children will be addressing you with questions. It’s best to talk with your co-parent in advance so you’re both on the same page and prepared with age-appropriate answers.
Your responses don’t have to be long or detailed. Your children are looking for comfort, security and peace of mind when they ask. The more both parents are in agreement about their answers, the easier for your children to accept and move on without added anxiety or confusion.
I use “Mom and Dad” here for writing ease, but the same advice holds regardless of who you are and what you’re called as caretakers.
While these are 7 of the most frequently asked questions, put yourself in your kids’ shoes and be prepared for many others as well.
- Why are you divorcing? No answer will ever feel right to your kids, but you need one. It’s best to be clear and concise. “We all want to be happy. Mom and Dad have tried but we can’t be happy together. We’re happy with you so we’ll continue to be with you in two homes.”
- What will happen to me? Kids need to feel stability and comfort at this point. So don’t get lost in details you may not have yet defined. Focus instead on telling them they will be okay because Mom and Dad are working things out and we both love you. Then step up to making mature, responsible parenting decisions that truly address the wellbeing of your children.
- What if I don’t want you to divorce? Many kids believe they can change the course of this decision through anger, tears or other belligerent behavior. Here again you must be clear and firm about this being a parental decision that was difficult to make. However, Mom and Dad believe it will be best for all of us in the end.
- Is there a chance you’ll get back together? Most every child has this hope. It’s best to be very firm in your response. “No, we won’t be getting back together. But we will both still be your parents and always be there for you.”
- Why can’t we still live together? Another very common question that needs a direct response. “Because Mom and Dad have decided that we can’t and life will be smoother and happier if we live in two separate homes.”
- What about school and my friends? It’s always easier for kids if both parents stay local so there’s no need to change school and play activities in the neighborhood. When relocation is the only option, try to plan it during summer or other vacation time. It’s helpful to frame the move in a positive light to make it less daunting. Talk about having an adventure together, making new friends, seeing new places and sometimes meeting new family.
- Did I do something wrong? Most children blame themselves for your divorce even when you tell them that’s not the case. So you need to remind them that “this is Mom and Dad’s problem; it’s not about or because of you.” Tell them how wonderful they are and how much both parents love them – and always will. That’s something we both agree about!
Have specific questions about your circumstances? I am a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach working internationally via phone or video sessions. There are other divorce coaches and therapists available on my Expert Directory at www.ChildCenteredDivoce.com. Reach out for support. Your children will thank you when they’re grown!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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