Talking to Your Kids About Divorce
Dec. 29, 2021
If you are the father of minor children, the most difficult part about deciding to end your marriage will probably be talking to your kids about it. There is no guidebook nor is there a right way and a wrong way to do it. There are, however, some things you may wish to focus on and some thing you should not dwell on, according to most experts. For those fathers struggling with what to say, Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd discusses talking to your kids about divorce.
When Should You Tell Them?
As parents, we all like to think that we shield our children from discord and problems within the marriage; however, the reality is that children pick up on even the smallest change in atmosphere or vibe between their parents. The extent to which they understand what that means depends, to a large extent, on the age and maturity of the child. For a child, however, the uncertainty of not knowing what is wrong is often worse than the reality of knowing. With that in mind, the general rule is to sit down and talk to them sooner rather than later when it comes to separation or divorce. When possible, prepare them for the separation a week or more ahead of time. Try and have the conversation when nothing important is going on for some time afterward so you will be available to answer questions or simply comfort them. It is also a good idea to notify teachers or caregivers in case the children act out or experience strong emotions following your announcement.
Suggestions for What to Say and What to Do
When you do tell your children about separation or divorce, experts offer some suggestions, including:
Tell all the children – sometimes parents tell only the oldest child or children because they feel they are better able to handle the news. The problem with this is that it puts an additional burden on them on top of the burden of knowing their parents are splitting up. Older children may need more information, but it is best to give all the children at least some information.
Avoid blame – it can be tempting to blame the other parent, particularly if you don’t want the divorce. Doing so, however, forces your children to choose a side. While it might make you feel good to have them on your side, picking sides can cause irreparable damage to a young child’s emotional well-being.
Reassure them – tell them over and over again that they are not to blame and that you will remain an active part of their life. Divorce changes things; however, it doesn’t change how much you love them.
Don’t give them false hope – if this is truly just a separation that may not lead to divorce it is ok to tell them that; however, if either you or your spouse is adamant that the marriage is over, don’t give them false hope that you will get back together. Children can adjust to changes. Uncertainty, however, is very stressful for them.
Answer questions — most children have questions after being told their parents are splitting up. The questions may come immediately or days later. If you honestly don’t know the answer then say so. If you do know the answer though, it is usually best to provide the answer. If a child is old enough to ask a question, they usually have some idea what the answer is. If a parent doesn’t provide an answer, the child often fills in the blank which can be much worse than the actual answer.
Be prepared for any reaction – children react very differently to the news of a divorce. Some withdraw. Some become angry and act out. Yet others are sad and cry a lot. Just as you probably went through several strong emotions before you accepted the reality of your divorce, so will your children. Have patience and let them work through their emotions. If necessary, consider counseling.
Explain the plan. Provide a broad picture of the plan. Who will remain in the house and where will the other parent live. How long will the divorce likely take. Will the children be uprooted or do they get to stay where they are. This lets them focus on what changes are actually coming instead of imaging them.
Contact a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about the Texas divorce process, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.