Q – My husband and I have decided to divorce. To make things easier for the kids we are choosing to stay in one house until the end of the school year. My husband thinks we shouldn’t tell the kids until we’re ready to move and they are out of school (another six months). Is it a good idea to wait?
A – First, I applaud you and your husband’s commitment to working together to keep life as stable as possible for your kids. While it’s important to be mindful of timing, I’d encourage you to rethink your current plan.
It’s been said that kids are excellent observers but not very good interpreters. Even though you and your husband are not fighting, chances are good that your children have already picked up on the unspoken tension. While you may think you’re making it easier by not saying anything, not knowing could be creating some anxiety for them. When parents choose to keep quiet about their decision, it puts kids in the position of having to figure things out on their own. This leaves children feeling confused, ill prepared to deal with their angst and more likely to misinterpret the situation.
Not surprisingly, when parents don’t acknowledge the tension, kids tend to follow their lead. The end result – kids don’t talk about how they feel or ask questions. Unfortunately parents misinterpret this and are under the impression that their children are unaware and unaffected.
While your goal is to shield them from the upset, be mindful when they discover you’ve started this process without telling them, they may feel very betrayed. Ultimately it could compromise your credibility with your kids.
If you’ve made a firm commitment to ending the marriage, then I’d suggest sharing that information with your kids sooner rather than later. When you do tell your children make sure to let them know:
• This is a permanent decision.
• Your choice to split up has nothing to do with them or anything that they have done.
• You understand that continuing to live in one home may make it more difficult to understand why we’re getting a divorce.
• What will be different and what will stay the same.
• Even though you will be ending your marriage, you will always be Mom and Dad and your love for them will never change.
To give your children an emotional buffer, clear the family calendar and plan to talk with kids at the start of a weekend or over an extended school break. This will give your children space to process the news, ask questions and for you to have follow up discussions. You can also help offset any anxiety they may have about talking with others by discussing ways they can share the news with friends and teachers.