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Almost every week for several years now, I have worked with kids whose parents are in the process of divorce. These kids come from many different types of homes and backgrounds. I myself was once that child.
Although the circumstances for every child is different, one thing we all have in common is that our parents went from being married to being divorced.
Where my story began…
I still remember my own story of when my parents got divorced…twice. And that was during a time and within a community where it was still taboo to get divorced.
I remember feeling this incredible sadness, and having questions haunt me like,“did I do something wrong?” and “what can I do to fix this so my mom will come back?”
In my case, my mom left. And my dad, in his wisdom at the time, thought it best to shelter me from the details.
Now, I understand the reason for his decision, but as a child, I was confused and hurting. I didn’t know what was going on and neither parent told me much of anything.
A place to start
So what I would tell my father today and all the other parents who face this same decision, is this:
1. Reassure your kids often.
Your kids are going to blame themselves no matter what you tell them. It’s hard wired into us as kids. So it’s very important to keep reminding them that it is not.their.fault. Remember, since their identity to tied to their parents, this will impact their core being. Read about that here. Make sure to tell them often that no matter what happens both parents will always love them.
2. Be age appropriate.
It’s important to tell your kids details about your separation and divorce that are age appropriate. (sign up for my free resource library to learn more about this).
3. Tell your kids something.
Don’t make the assumption that it is not on their minds if they aren’t talking about it or they aren’t asking you any questions. Children have great imaginations and their amazing little brains are always making a story out of the facts they do have. So make sure you are sharing the truth (age appropriate of course!).
4. Stay calm and composed when you talk with them.
Make sure you have your emotions under control before you help your child regulate their emotions. They need you to be ok right now. Seeing you falling apart will be stressful for them. It’s ok to tell them you are feeling sad (that your family is breaking apart) but be sure to let them know you’re the parent and you can handle being sad for a time. This teaches them that it’s ok to be sad, and it also shows them that you are strong enough not only to take care of yourself but most likely that you can take care of them too.
5. Be honest with the facts.
If you’re not going to get back together, then gently tell them this truth. You can be loving and nurturing, but be honest and use language they understand. Ask them questions after you talk with them to make sure they understand correctly and to learn about any concerns they might have.
6. Be the one to tell them.
It’s important that your kids hear that mom and dad are getting divorced from you guys and not from friends or family members. It’s scary hearing about it for the first time. It’s important as parents that you talk about this before you tell them, and then tell them in a way that gives everyone time to talk about it right then and there.
Let me know what questions or insights you might have when talking to your kids about divorce.