If your family is preparing for divorce, you may have concerns and questions on how to tell the kids. I sought some advice from Denise Houston, a Licensed Professional Counselor (http://denisehouston.com/contact_me) who specializes in child therapy to share her wisdom on this topic. She recommends that
“We will get along better if we live in separate houses”
“Parents do not divorce children, we are not divorcing you”
“We will both still love you and spend time with you”
“The divorce is not your fault”
“We will keep as many things the same as we possibly can (school, neighborhood, friends, etc.) “
Kathleen Shack, Marriage and Family Therapist (http://www.familysolutionscounselingga.com/) who also specializes in child therapy and frequently assists parents in preparing custody plans for settlements adds:
“Why did you stop loving Mommy/Daddy?” This is disguised as “Will you stop loving me” so you both will want to reassure the child that just because Mommy and Daddy’s relationship is changing, each of you will continue to love the children and that will never change.
“Will you ever get back together?” The kids must be told very clearly that you will not be getting back together so as not to create false hope.
“Why did you break up our family?” Do not discuss the details of the nature of the breakdown of the relationship with the kids, avoid assigning blame. Children should not be burdened with adult relational issues.
“Do I have to go to Mom’s/Dad’s?” Yes, no matter what age, children need parenting time with both parents (as long as it is safe with no threat of abuse), it is important to work together to resolve lingering issues so that both parents reinforce the benefit of alone time with the other parent.
“Am I getting a new Mom/Dad?” No, parents are not replaceable. Their mother will always be their mother and father will always be their father, despite the possibility of one or both parents engaging in new relationships and future marriages. Step-parents are “bonus” parents and do not replace the birth parent.
“Where will I live?” You need to know the living arrangements prior to telling the kids. Remember that most kids are focused on self and will want to know exactly how their daily lives will be affected, know where they will be staying with both parents and what the exchange schedule will be and be prepared to discuss this with them at this time.
It is also very beneficial to place children into “family-in-transition” counseling immediately after you tell them if you can afford to. This important step will help your children understand the changes in your family, give them a healthy perspective on the changes as well as an outside outlet to vent frustrations or concerns.
Do you have a personal story that you can share regarding these issues? I would love to hear from you.
More financial settlement and custody advice and tips in Transitions Divorce Prep Workbook