Divorce is a time of great confusion for your children, they are upset and they need your help. The comfortable certainties of their lives are about to be, or have been, swept away.
Talking to them as soon as possible is crucial to helping them understand the facts of the divorce and come to terms with the new situation which will follow. It will be a difficult conversation and you need to be prepared as much as you can.
Do it calmly and do it together
When you first talk to them, set enough time aside and create a calm setting, with both parents being present. It will be so much better if you can do this together. You need to limit your discussion to what is about to happen and a very brief timetable of what will happen and when. Don't overwhelm them with information.
Plan ahead with your partner. This can be difficult as you may be in a state of shock and anger yourself. Do try, as it will be so much better for the children. Always be truthful, this is not a time to lie even with the best intentions.
Keep your cool and keep it simple
Avoid inappropriate topics such as child custody or child support payments. Be respectful to their mother or father, remember they love both of you and keep your emotions in check. If you can be calm and measured it will help you and them. Be sensitive to how they react to the news and listen to your children and understand their fears and concerns. Encourage them to ask questions but avoid giving conflicting answers.
Here are a few important things you need to tell your children and reemphasise to them during the divorce and beyond.
1. Mummy and Daddy are separating because ...
This is never an easy topic to talk about but it is important. Many children of divorce are unhappy about the fact that they were never told the reasons for the divorce of their parents. Be as truthful as you can, you should not mention reasons such as adultery. Try to keep it more general such as that you have important differences you cannot resolve. You may be angry at your partner for his/her infidelity; this is absolutely not the right time to tell your children about any of that stuff.
2. Mummy and Daddy can be better parents when they live in different homes.
This is closely connected to the explanation of why you are separating. It will introduce your children to the fact that there will soon be two different homes. You can elaborate on this topic later.
3. Things are going to be different, but we will work as a team to make it work.
The fact is that not everything will be changing in your children's lives and they need your love and support to come to terms with that. There will be different homes and there will be problems. Don't just say that things will be just OK explain to your children know that you are in control and that you are all in this together. Never make any promises you cannot keep!
4. It is not your fault.
Children can often blame themselves for a divorce because they believe the divorce happened because of something they did. It is totally critical that you reassure them that the divorce is not their fault and they are not to blame.
5. Mummy and Daddy will not marry each other again.
Your children may ask you whether you and your spouse will remarry. Your children need to understand that the divorce is final and the whole family is moving into a new phase of their lives. This removes any confusion and uncertainty and creates, as quickly as possible, a more stable environment that they can understand. Life after divorce is going to be very different