In the Beginning…
If possible, have both parents present when telling children about the divorce.
Discuss what you will tell children before hand. Also, keep explanations simple and avoid placing blame. Use general statements such as Mom and Dad can’t live together anymore or Mom and Dad have decided we would be happier living in different homes.
Tell your children that the divorce is not their fault.
Children need to understand that your decision to divorce had nothing to do with them or their behavior. Further kids should be told there is nothing they can do to change or fix what is happening in the family.
Tell your children that you love them.
Make sure they understand the love shared between a parent and child is different than the love shared between a husband and wife. Kids need to know that the love you have for them will last forever.
Reinforce it is okay to love both Mom and Dad.
Children should not feel they have to take sides or worry about losing the love of either parent.
Give children details regarding how life will change.
Answer questions or address worries your kids might have like:
• Where they will live
• When they will see each parent
• How they can get in touch with either parent
• School arrangements
• How life will change and what will stay the same
Tell children both parents will continue to be a part of their lives.
Let children know what the parenting schedule will be and how they can reach each parent. Also, if one parent chooses not to be involved in a child’s life, it’s best not to be dishonest with your child or sugarcoat the truth.
Minimize changes in your children’s lives as much as possible.
Such as neighborhood, friends, school, activities and contact with extended family members.
Inform school and teachers about changes in the family.
Provide school with necessary information regarding your parenting arrangement. Share both parent’s contact information and address, changes in emergency numbers, who will pick children up and when. Respect your children and remember to be discrete about personal details. Also steer clear of telling your side of the story to others and dragging them into the drama of your divorce.
Continue to show your children you love them through both words and actions.
While you may tell your children with your words that you love them they will need you to back it up with action. As much as possible be a parent who follows through with commitments and stands by their word.
Listen to your children.
Support their right to have feelings about what is happening in their lives. Help your children find safe and healthy ways to express these feelings.
Role model appropriate ways to deal with feelings.
Make time to deal with your feelings and do your best to model healthy ways of expressing how you feel. Remember, kids usually don’t do as we say, they do as we do.
Re-establish a sense of security by providing structure, consistency as well as, lots of love.
Children will wonder about the possibility of being divorced/abandoned by a parent (i.e. Are you going to leave me like you left each other?). Therefore keeping your word with children and following through with plans, as well as, promises are very important. Bottom line, don’t just talk the talk; you also need to walk the walk.
Support your child’s relationship with their other parent.
Children need a relationship with both of their parents. Although your EX may not have been a good partner, they can still be an excellent parent.
Work on re-establishing a sense of family.
Develop new family traditions, rituals or activities such as creating special ways to spend the holidays, getting a family portrait or planning a weekly family dinner night.