Talking to Your Kids about Your Divorce, Part 2: The Conversation

talking to your kids, divorce, Illinois family lawyerYou know how tough it can be to talk with your children about certain realities of life. At some point, you will likely be required to discuss with them challenging issues such as the death of a loved one, bullying or social concerns, and physical and emotional changes related to adolescence. For many parents, speaking with their children about divorce is incredibly difficult. It is, however, a conversation that must take place in order to maintain your children’s trust and to help ensure they understand the changes that will be occurring. A recent post on this blog discussed some ways to prepare for talking to your kids about divorce and today’s will look at important details of the actual conversation.

Schedule Your Talk

The discussion about your imminent divorce is not one to casually begin in the car on the way home from the movies. You and your children need to set aside the appropriate time to work through the details without feeling rushed or pressured. Also be sure that you and your spouse have reached the “point of no return” regarding divorce or separation. Telling your kids that you are “considering” a divorce or separation will only cause unnecessary uncertainty at an already confusing time. Let them know that changes are happening, not that they might.

Work Together

If you and your spouse can agree on nothing else, ensure your children remain a priority for you both. Speak to them together, if it is at all possible. This can allow your children to see you as a team, committed to their best interests despite your own personal difficulties. Avoid blaming and belittling each other and focus on the new reality. You and your spouse will need to effectively co-parent for years to come, and talking to your kids together can help foster long-term cooperation.

Not Their Fault

Children will often internalize a divorce situation and relate the outcome to something they did or did not do. For example, your child may convince himself that you are getting divorced because he left his toys out again. Reassure your children continually that divorce is an adult decision based on adult reasons that are not related to their behavior. It is not their fault, and, despite Hollywood depictions, they cannot “fix” it. Start by telling your kids it is not their fault, and continue to show them. Do not allow your emotions in the coming weeks and months overshadow your words and make your children feel responsible.

Focus on Appropriate Details

Your children need to know that you and your spouse will continue to love them and be a part of their lives. They do not necessarily need to know that your spouse cheated on you or that you have been dealing with substance abuse issues. Doing so, particularly with younger children, can feel like a personal criticism against them, regardless of your intent. As the children get older, you may be able to be more forthcoming with details, but focus primarily on logistical arrangements and the promise of a better future.

Give Them Permission and Space to React

It is impossible to predict exactly how your children will react to the news. Shock, anger, confusion, betrayal, sadness, hurt, and surprise, of course, are all common reactive emotions, but you may find that your child shows no immediate reaction at all. Create a safe environment for your children to feel whatever it is they are feeling and to express themselves however they need to. Let them ask questions, validate their feelings, and do not expect them to just “get over it” and move on. Divorce is as much an emotional process for the whole family as it is a legal process between spouses.

As you approach divorce, you may have a number of questions about talking to your kids. An experienced Rolling Meadows family law attorney may be able to offer some insight on how to begin the process. Contact our office today to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our compassionate professionals.

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