How do you tell your children your marriage is over? Is there a best way or worse way? First of all make sure that both of you are certain that divorce is going to really happen and it is your final decision after exploring all other options.
Less than ideal ways are each for each parent to tell the children at a different times and blaming the other parent, or doing some drastic changes in living situations without telling the children or their spouse. Also harmful is passing messages through the children,, dating too early and not giving children time to grieve. As a parent crying to or leaning on your children for emotional support for your separation or divorce because they are so “mature” and you feel they understand is not advised. Showing your children your anger towards your ex is also not advised even if you feel you are in the right. All these are usually less than ideal and will put more stress on your children through the divorce and through the co-parenting years that come after.
What might be better guide rules? Having a joint story that you both share together when you are both sure that divorce is inevitable is important. Get the story straight and stick to it,, and that should only be told one time, clearly and calmly, not every few months, or years.
Decide how to best tell children, when and where. Neither parent needs to be thrown under the bus in front of your kids. Often times kids feel they are half of each parent and the child begins to internalize that half of them is bad or if both parents insult each other they might feel that all of them is bad, so nothing they do is ok or matters. Saying thing like you look or act just like your ex spouse is not helpful. A child’s may worry that they have some how have, or will in the future contribute to parental issue, separation, or divorce and feel guilty or sad. They are left in a loosing situation, that they feel can’t be resolved.
The divorce story should not include any thing bad about either parent, Try not to personalize and react to comments from your ex when negotiating or when setting up scheduling for your children. Let things fall without reaction. That is easier said than done, and that is where a therapists might be able to help. Anything you can do to reduce parental conflict is going to serve your children’s best interest and allow them to be happier and better adjusted after the transition.
A neutral story, may sound like …….”we do not love each other in ways parents should or we do not get along any more and sometimes in adult love and in couples love thing can change..” Then emphasize that love for kids from a parent does not change, remind your children that you both still love them now and will continue to love them always, followed by hugs or time to ask questions. The children need to feel no sense of responsibility for the loss of your marriage. They also should not be made to feel any responsibility to manage the relationship of their parents, keep you happy, be your confidant, keep your secrets or be your best friend.
That is why its so important to talk with a therapists who understands pre and post divorce issues. The pain you might be feeling , anger, animosity or maybe just a strong desire to move forward. Often times couples are not on the same page as far as wanting to divorce and this creates animosity, resentment and anger in the process of the separation. Children at different ages also may react differently.
So consider taking responsibility for your own actions and for your language and reactions even in very difficult situations, in front of your children. Love your children more than you hate your spouse , advance the needs of your children over your animosity , take a loving kindness approach. Do it for your kids.