About 50% of married couples in America will get divorced, according to statistics.
While there are many unhappy parents that try to stay together for the sake of their children, they should know that divorce doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
From my personal experience as a teen, my parent’s divorce strengthened my relationship with my mom and my dad. It gave me a chance to spend one-on-one time with each parent individually, which helped build a tighter bond. I also noticed the household was less stressful and both of my parents seemed noticeably happier.
Children at different ages and maturity levels will usually tend to have different reactions to their parents’ divorce. While parents need to tailor their discussions based on their child’s age and situation, there are a few basic guidelines that should be followed.
1. Keep the Message Simple
Especially if your kids are younger, keep the message short and sweet. You don’t need to give a long explanation of why you’re getting a divorce, just tell them the basics. Speak in terms that they can easily understand and let them know what will happen to them.
Also, your child may react differently depending on what tone you speak in. For example, if you break down crying, your child may panic and feel the strain, too. It’s best to get a handle on your emotions about the divorce before talking to your child and to also figure out a game plan if your conversation gets emotional (since it does in many cases).
2. Don’t Make Them Pick Sides
If possible, try to break the news to your child with your partner. Avoid putting your child in the middle of an argument or make them feel like they have to pick sides. Even if your partner did something that made you angry, do not vent to your child or tell them all of the “dirty details” about who did what.
This is where having a game plan comes in handy. If you and your partner are able to discuss and come to an agreement on the information you’ll be giving, it’ll make the news go over a lot smoother.
3. Show Them Support
Let your child know that you love them and it was not their fault. It’s common that children overhear their parents fighting about something related to them, which leads them to think the divorce is because of them. Assure your child that everything will be okay.
Keep a close eye on your child for the next few days after you break the news, and respect your child’s boundaries. Some children want to talk about thedivorce; others don’t. There’s no such thing as a “normal” feeling when it comes to how children (regardless of age) should react, so be open and supportive.
4. Answer Unspoken Questions
Because we’re all a little egocentric, your child will want to know how the situation will affect their lives. It’s important to answer questions like:
- Where will I live?
- When will I see both parents?
- Do I still get to go to the same school?
- Do I still get to do [sport/activity they participate in]?
Of course, do not promise anything you cannot deliver. If you’re still working out the living situations, be honest. Otherwise, it will only make it harder when things do not work out as planned.
You know your kid best, so respond to them if they need extra comfort or support. Let them know you are always there for them.