When it comes time to tell your kids you and your spouse are getting a divorce, are you ready to give them the support they’ll need?
Statistics show that around half of all marriages in the US end in divorce, meaning there are lots of children going through their own parents’ divorce. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true methods to help kids through the worst of it and eventually find acceptance.
Be prepared, and take it one step at a time
When you first sit down with your kids to give them the news, you’re going to have a lot of questions and anxieties to address. Be honest with them. Even if you genuinely don’t know the answer to a question, try to provide reassurance as much as possible. It’s best to provide age-appropriate responses, and to remember that even teens and young adults don’t have to know every detail.
Don’t overload them with information about the future—just give them the basics so they don’t feel overwhelmed. However, do address their uncertainties and anxiety about questions regarding living arrangements, custody, etc. It’s ok to say that you don’t know the answers to these questions yet, but validate their worries and let them know that you’ll be there for them.
Be compassionate toward their emotional reactions
It’s important to acknowledge and validate the emotions kids go through during a divorce. Tell them you understand how they’re feeling, and that you recognize how difficult it is. Never make them feel like their strong emotions are negative; make sure they understand it’s normal to have reactions to news of divorce that include sadness, anger, fear, and uncertainty. It can be helpful for them to work with a therapist to process these emotions outside the home.
Make sure they see you and your spouse handling your own emotions in a healthy manner. It’s ok to let them know you feel sadness or upset about the situation as well, but try to be a source of strength and a role model of resilience. Avoid fighting or arguing with your spouse about the divorce, or speaking badly of them in front of the kids—your attorney can help you manage the more difficult divorce details.
Each day will be a step toward healing and acceptance for both kids and their parents. Together, you’ll all heal and find joy in your new normal.