Children will remember their parents’ decisions to divorce or separate for the rest their lives. There is no one right way or perfect recipe that will ensure your child doesn’t suffer. It is a good idea to remember some principles when talking about divorce or separation with your children. These principles will help children navigate divorce more easily.
1. You must make sure that you have enough time. It is not a good idea for any family member to rush to complete other tasks immediately after the discussion, particularly parents.
2. Pick a time when there is no distractions.
3. Tell your children to turn off their phones and radios, and that you have an important message for them.
4. All members of the family should attend. If the family includes several members, the news of divorce should not be shared with each child.
PARENTS SHOULD KEEP THESE RULES IN MIND DURING THE DIVORCE DISCUSSION
1. Both parents will discuss with their children the manner in which the news will be passed to them.
2. It is a good idea for both parents to speak up during the conversation with the children. The goal is not to convey to the children that only one of the parents is responsible/guilty/strong and that the other is the victim/weak/irresponsible.
3. Children don’t need to hear accusations. Parents should not be arguing. The discussion focuses on the children. Both partners are responsible for making the transition to the new stage in their families’ lives easier. Children are not interested in settling accounts, anger, or suffering.
PARENTS’ MESSAGE ON SEPARATION / DIVORCE
Communicate clearly, concisely, and honestly. Use concrete data.
Example: According to experts Sandra Volgy Everett (in “Healthy Divorce”): I know that me, mom/me, and dad have had their problems and misunderstandings lately. You might have heard us argue (even though we tried to avoid it in your presence).
We decided to live apart for a month in order to see how we feel. We will seek therapy to try to find answers. This was what we hoped for, but it is not certain. Next week, dad will move into his own apartment. While you can come to the apartment for a part of it, you will still live with your mother in the house. You will be able to have your own place in the apartment by bringing some toys with you. We will all be available to you if you need us, and we will see one another quite often for different things.
It is not your fault, tell the children.
Example: This is not your fault. This is not your fault and you cannot change it. As lovers and husbands and wives, our problems are between us. Only we can find solutions and take decisions.
Your love for your children will never change.
Example: You and I love each other very deeply. Our bond as parents will last a lifetime. We will never leave you. Both of us will be your parents for the rest our lives.
Give your children the opportunity to answer all of their questions.
Example: You can talk to us about it whenever you like, to ask questions and to provide feedback. We are happy to help you.
Allow children to have whatever reaction they desire: anger, fear, anger, indifference. Accept any emotion that arises.
Once you have shared the news with them, be available to them both and answer any questions they might have. Sometimes the questions are only answered after a few weeks or days after the decision is made. Other times they appear immediately.