January is often referred to as the "divorce month" since it is the number one month in which parents decide to separate and tell their children about the marital separation. Most parents do not want to put their children through the grief associated with "telling the kids" during the holiday season so they hold off on the big announcement until all the seasonal festivities are over. This is one of the biggest and hardest "reality checks" for children and often a very sad time for families that are about to go through a major life transition. Here are some helpful tips for parents so that they can be better prepared and lessen the negative impact that this decision and "the talk" can have on their children.
1. Do your homework! Prepare before you talk with the children. I highly recommend that parents met with a Divorce Coach or Parenting Therapist before they talk with the children. This will be one of the best investments parents can make and it does not require significant time or money. There is solid research and information regarding children and divorce and one or two hours with a professional who understands family transitions can make the world of difference in the long run.
2. When you tell the children, tell them together. This shows a willingness and ability for the parents to cooperate, and creates security during an insecure time. Also remember you both brought them into this world together and you are both still responsible for their care and development even if you are getting divorced.
3. Do not try to make this conversation too casual. It is an important decision and deeply impacts your children so treat it as the important conversation it is. This is not meant to be an easy talk.
4. Inform the children that you need to have a family discussion and then bring them all together in a spot in the house where there are no distractions.
5. Be courageous. Do not be afraid of your children's emotions. Invite their emotions and let them know their feelings and experiences matter to you.
6. Do not get carried away by your own emotions. It is alright to show your own sadness and the divorce announcement should bring some sad emotions forward, but keep you primary focus on the children and their emotional needs. They are more vulnerable than you in all of this!
7. Tell them what will change and what will not change. Give them some real practical information so they can begin to form a new picture of how things will look in their lives. It is best to have as many logistics as possible worked out prior to telling the kids. This is another example of how meeting with a Divorce Coach or Parenting Therapist can assist you prior to the divorce announcement to your children.
8. Reassure them of your love and that although love between adults can change, the love between parents and their children does not change.
9. Be respectful of each other and endorse the other parent to the children during that first conversation. Then be prepared to continue to do this on many occasions.
10. Allow your children time to grieve and remain open to ongoing conversations after the big announcement. If your children are asking you questions, this is positive. Encourage further conversations and be open to their questions, thoughts, and feelings. You may want to consider setting up a time for the children to talk with a therapist at some point as unprocessed feelings can get stuck and cause problems later. Reflect to the children that emotions are natural and the goal is to move through emotions rather than avoid difficult feelings.
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