If a couple decides to divorce, probably the hardest thing they will have to face is telling the kids. Many studies have shown that how this message is delivered is actually a significant factor in how well the children will cope with the news. Ideally, the parents should strive to present a joint statement and reassure the kids that 1) this is not their fault; 2) they will still have both parents involved in their lives on a regular and frequent basis; and 3) that the goal is to minimize the disruption to their lives. The worst situation is when one parent has already moved out and the other is left to deliver the news of the separation without any knowledge of the time-sharing schedule the family will be implementing.
Children crave continuity and stability. Home is supposed to provide a sanctuary from all the outside chaos, so the sooner parents can help reassure their children that everything will be okay, the sooner they can return to worrying about kid issues, and the parents can work out the restructuring of family ties. Telling kids the details of the divorce negotiations, financial arrangements, or pending litigation issues are not appropriate– parents need to find other outlets for venting when necessary.
Most parents will try to avoid any discussions about a divorce for the next few weeks, and I do encourage that so that a child’s holiday memories are not associated with his/her parents’ separation. But usually right after the holidays, there is a spike in divorce activity, so for those contemplating that option, I would encourage finding some books that provide advice for talking to children about divorce. For those with little children, you may escape the need for any explanations when they are young, but as they get older, the questions will come up- so just be prepared.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.