No one goes into a marriage planning for divorce. I know I didn’t. I thought that I would be with my first husband until I was old and grey. However, that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t a decision that I made lightly either. I didn’t have children with my first husband so I didn’t have to worry about them during the divorce. However, a lot of people do have children and I truly believe they should make the children their top priorities during this difficult time. Here is how to prepare your children for divorce.
Related Post: 9 Signs You Are Ready To Start Dating After Divorce
How To Prepare Your Children For Divorce
Breaking The News
The way you break the news can set the tone for the whole process. If you start off on an angry, negative foot it is only going to get worse. When you and your spouse are completely sure this is what needs to be done then you need to tell your children. However, it is highly recommended to wait until the process is already in motion because many couples change their mind and you don’t want to put your children through mental anguish for nothing.
Both parents should be there for the conversation. It is key to remember, to leave any feelings of hurt, anger, or blame out of the conversation. The focus should be on your children. How much you tell your children and what exactly you tell your children should be age-appropriate.
It is imperative that you remind them that they are NOT to blame. However, keep in mind that many children will still carry around some blame no matter what you say, so you need to be a consistent reassurance for them by continuously reminding them they are not to blame.
Prepare Yourself For Their Questions and Reactions
Don’t assume that you know how your kids will respond. However, try to be as prepared as you can be. Give them the space they need to have and express their emotions. Keep in mind that if they don’t react the way you expect, don’t push your emotions on them. For example, if they feel sad, but you expected them to feel anger don’t force them to mimic your emotion or the emotion you think they should have.
Make sure you validate their feelings, whatever they might be. Give them time to process because not all kids will react right away. It might take them a few days, weeks, or even months. Some children might try to please their parents by continuously saying that everything is fine. Other children might act out their worry or anger elsewhere, like at school or with their appetite or sleep.
You know your children better than anyone else. Watch over them and take note of any differences in their behavior.
Some children might have a lot of questions, depending on their ages. Here are some examples of some questions you might get asked:
- Who will I live with?
- Will I have to move?
- Am I going to have to change schools?
- Where will we spend the holidays?
- Will I still get to see my friends?
- But why?
It is extremely important to encourage honesty. Being honest might not always be easy, but if you expect your kids to be honest with you then you need to give them the same. However, keep in mind that you need to only give age-appropriate information. Leaving out horrible details about your spouse that could hurt them is different than outright lying to them. You want them to feel like they can come to you at any time and speak with you honestly.
Feelings Into Words
Sometimes children can have a really hard time putting their feelings into words. It is up to you to help them. Encourage it by sharing your own feelings (appropriate feelings) and maybe it will encourage them to do the same. Ask them questions that get them to talk. For example, do you know what is making you feel so sad? Always remember to be a good listener, even if it might be hard for you to hear what they are saying.
Offer Them Support
You need to offer support to your children. They might not even know what they need. However, you can give them ideas.
- Talk to a friend.
- Talk to another trusted adult.
- Take a walk together.
- Sit together in silence.
- Talk to a professional.
Keep Yourself Healthy
Children can always feel what you are feeling, no matter what age they are. If you don’t take care of yourself and allow stress to overcome you then you won’t be able to be there for your children. Your children shouldn’t be worried about your health on top of everything else going on. Divorce can be stressful. You need to find a way to deal with it in a healthy manner.
Like I mentioned above, it is important to keep details age-appropriate. For younger kids, it is best to keep it simple. For example, just explain that Mama and Daddy are going to live in separate homes. Maybe try to put a positive spin on it by saying they will now have two rooms or more toys. Give children as much information as they need to prepare them for the upcoming changes.
Keep in mind, older children might know more about what is going on than you might think. However, that still doesn’t mean you should give them too many details. Just be prepared that they might have more personal questions because of what they may or may not have picked up on at home.
Consistency Is Crucial
Children need consistancy when things are going “normal” and it is even more important when big changes are happening. Routine provides comfort when everything around them is falling apart. With so many changes, it is important to keep as much as possible the same.
No Fighting In Front Of The Children
This should be followed in all families. No fighting in front of the children! I understand that an occasional spat is going to slip up, but no child should live in a continuous battlefield between mom and dad. This will only create more fear for your children and more chaos for an already chaotic situation. Plus, you don’t want to set a bad example for your kids when it comes to relationships. If you and your spouse have tried to get along and you just can’t, look into getting a mediator to help you keep the peace. It will be so much more beneficial for your children.
New Living Situations
You will need to prepare them for new living situations. You should provide as many details as possible about their new living space. The idea of having to move or sleep somewhere else can be overwhelming for some children. Try to let them be a part of the process as much as possible. For example, if they are going to have their own room allow them to help you pick out bedding or a few decorations. This way it makes it feel like theirs. If you are having to downsize allow them to help you decide what stays, what to give away, and what goes to your spouses’ new place. This gives your children a sense of control, which is extremely important when they probably feel completely out of control about the divorce.
Another good idea is to put up a picture of them and their other parent in their new room. This way they still feel close to both parents. It sends a positive message to the child. It basically says, we still support each other and love you dearly.
Have Family Check-ins
Even after the divorce, the idea of having family check-ins is extremely beneficial. Co-parenting is now going to be your new focus. A great way to do that is to have family meetings on a regular basis. This shows your children that you and your spouse are still on the same team and we can still be family. This also allows the children time to discuss anything that might be bothering them about the new situation.
5 Things You Need To Make Sure To Say
- This is not your fault.
- We will always be your parents.
- You are and will always be safe.
- This is about change, not about blame.
- We will always love you.
Divorce is never easy and it can be made even harder when you have kids to think about. Just remember that even though you aren’t husband and wife anymore, you are still mom and dad. That makes you a team. I hope these tips on how to prepare your children for divorce gives you a good starting point for this period of time. However, I have included a few books (with links to Amazon) that are really good for children to read or you to read with your children that discuss divorce.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31