While divorce has many moments that are down right daunting, telling your kids is one of the most difficult moments… hands down. It is a tough conversation that requires wholehearted developmentally appropriate honesty. Our children have this world that revolves around their two people; their parents. In simple terms, our children see themselves as half mom, half dad… so if our children are hearing negative things about one of their parents it is internalized. It is our place, as their parents, to protect them from unnecessary wounds… to protect the purity of being a kid. Life will hand them enough hard knocks, we, the parents need not contribute to this.
A conversation with children where we are redefining the family and telling them that what they know to be true, and what they’ve always been able to count on, is about to change requires thoughtfulness. It requires a developmentally appropriate, tender conversation about the family’s future. And yes, is difficult to execute. Here are three golden rules:
- Tell the entire family at once.
- You must convey the crucial messages in the first 45 seconds.
- Both partners must practice the conversation together before talking to the kids.
It is a great benefit for children of divorce to see that their parents are united when it comes to the kids. And this is tough when emotions are high. I have seen many times just how difficult this is for two people who are hurting, who’ve been betrayed, who are heartbroken – but it is in this moment that we need to pull up our socks and be present. I’ve sat with couples and have helped them get on the same page and essentially write a script that they can become comfortable with so that when they sit down with their children they speak calmly and from the heart. Kids add it all up … they take inventory … how you show up today adds to their beliefs about you and they translate that into how you feel about them.