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Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Telling Kids You Are Divorcing

Reader Question:

My husband and I are separating and will most likely divorce. We have two young children. I am wondering how to tell them about the divorce. I am really dreading this because I know how upsetting it will be.

Without trying to put extra guilt on you, divorce is tough on children. If there is any way you and your husband can go to therapy and work things out, please try or try again. Most marital problems can be solved and fixed if both partners are willing, submitted to God and work with a marital therapist.

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If this isn’t the case, then this is what I recommend. Be prepared for your children to be sad, angry and anxious. Because they are so young, they will probably act out these feelings rather than talk about them. Thus, you will need to be firm but loving.  Draw out their feelings by asking questions. Then validate their feelings. When they misbehave, don’t ignore it because you feel guilty. Do what you would normally do to correct the behavior.

In terms of telling them about the separation, it is best if both parents tell the children. Give them as much detail as they need and no more. As soon as you know, tell them of your plans to live apart. Don’t blame, be angry or get into conflict in front of the children. Be civil and ready to answer tough questions. Most important, assure them that this decision is not their fault. You will have to keep doing this because kids believe divorce is their fault no matter what parents say.

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When told, some children become immediately upset and others will show little emotion at first. Keep communication open so they can talk later when reality hits. This is a major loss and they will need to grieve. If they don’t, they can develop emotional problems later. So help them sort out their emotional feelings of loss. Encourage them to be honest and not say things just to please you.

Your children will want to know how this will immediately change their lives. So outline specific upcoming changes, e.g., daddy won’t be in this house to tuck you into bed; he will have another bed for you to sleep in when you are at his new house, etc. Keep it simple and factual.

Keep their lives as consistent as possible during the time of separation and divorce. Routine is important. Make sure they have one on one time with each parent. And don’t talk about divorce until you are certain it will happen. Many people continue to work on their problems during separation and reconsider divorce.

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