My husband and I have decided to separate. How do we explain divorce to our young kids without making them feel like it’s the end of the world?
Divorce is rarely easy, and if kids are involved it is guaranteed to be one of the more difficult times of your life. That’s the bad news. The good news is that lots of families survive marital splits -- and many go on to be happier for it. If you and your husband decide to separate, take these tips into consideration when communicating with your kids:
Assure them they are loved and will be cared for
Divorce means your children’s entire lives will be upturned. Give them the security that they can count on -- the foundation of their parents’ love and support no matter what. Say: “There will be a lot of changes in our family over the next few months. But one thing will not change: Daddy and I will always love you, and we are both committed to being the best parents we can. We will get through this as a family.”
Remind them it is not their fault
It is very common for children to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. Even if this seems illogical to you, address it directly with your children. Say: “Your dad and I are divorcing because we have differences we cannot resolve. This has nothing to do with anything you have ever done. It is not your fault.” Say this many times during the process. Once is often not enough.
Divorce, unfortunately, means broken promises. Your children’s trust in their parents’ marriage has been broken. The worst thing you can do is to keep lying to them. Do not say that their father is not at home because he is on vacation, or that a new romantic partner is just a friend. Instead, focus on being 100 percent honest in age-appropriate terms and regaining their trust.
Make promises you can keep
Divorce brings lots of uncertainty and change. Do not promise your kids you will stay in the house unless you know that is certain. Do not swear that both parents will spend just as much time with the child unless that is an established fact. Instead, focus on the things you know to be true, and keep your children informed of changes as they arise.
Address your children’s feelings
Even if your kids are very small, accept on the front-end that this is just as painful for them as it is for you. Invite them to talk freely about their worries and stresses. Seek professional help to make the transitions and changes easier -- for everyone in the family.