The Do's & Don'ts for Telling Your Kids about Divorce
By Brian Perskin
Family Law Attorney who creates winning divorce strategies
After much deliberation, you and your spouse have decided to proceed with divorce. There is a good chance that this decision was not made lightly, especially if children are involved. Many couples think they should stay married for the sake of their children, even if the relationship isn’t a happy or healthy one. In reality, this can actually do more harm than good.
Telling your children about your divorce is hard, but it doesn’t have to be a negative or harmful experience. Following these simple do’s and don’ts can make a world of difference:
DO: Present a united front. Both parents need to be on the same page about the divorce.Co-parenting is a cornerstone of having a successful, child centered divorce, and the best way to do this is to agree on what you are going to tell your children.
DON’T: Place blame on your spouse or argue in front of your kids. Fighting and blaming your spouse for the divorce can lead to parental alienation down the road. Your children will be confused and have questions about what the divorce means, and arguing about it will lead to stress, anxiety, and confusion.
DO: Discuss your divorce openly with your children, but approach the subject differently depending on the age of your kids. For instance, you can have a more in-depth conversation with a teenager than a toddler. An older child will have more complex questions, whereas a younger child may not fully understand what a divorce means.
DON’T: Make the announcement in a public area, or in front of friends or family members. Divorce is a sensitive subject, and should be discussed privately. Additionally, your children are likely to be distressed, angry, or sad, and it is best that they have a safe place to go (such as their bedroom) if they need to be alone to process the new information.
DO: Encourage your children to come to either you or your spouse with any questions or concerns, and let them know that there will always be an opportunity to have an open dialogue about the divorce. This will give children, regardless of age, a sense of comfort in an otherwise confusing life-altering time.
DON’T: Rush the conversation. Make sure both you and your spouse have cleared your calendars and reserve enough time to adequately discuss the divorce with your children.
DO: Devise a living arrangement and visitation schedule with your spouse prior to telling your children. Which parent will move out of the marital home? How often will your children see their other parent? Will they spend the night with the other parent, or just visit during the day? These are all questions that will come up during the discussion, and it is recommended that you have solid answers for your kids.
DON’T: Let your emotions get the best of you. Divorce hurts, even if it is for the best. It is okay to be sad and grieve your relationship, but try to remain positive around your children. Kids are very intuitive, and will pick up on your emotions, which can result in them feeling the same way.
DO: Remind your children that the divorce is not their fault and that they are still very loved and wanted by each parent. Even if they don’t say it, children will often think they did something wrong, which is the cause for their parent’s divorce. Parents need to reinforce the notion that their children did not cause the divorce. A great way to get this message across is to say, “Sometimes, mommies and daddies fall out of love with each other, so they decide to move into different houses. Just because mommy and daddy won’t live in the same home anymore, doesn’t mean that we care about you any less”.
NEW YORK’S DIVORCE POWERHOUSE
Prior to telling your children about your divorce, it is important to speak with an attorney to learn more about your rights as a parent, along with the divorce process. The law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. focuses their practice on matrimonial and family law matters, paying special attention to divorces involving custody and asset disputes. For more information, or to schedule a free and confidential consultation, call 718-875-7584 or 212-355-0887.