What can or should I say to our children about the divorce?
Your children are not only smart but very intuitive. You may believe they know nothing about what’s going on in your marriage, but they can sense when tensions are high and something is wrong. So, it’s going to be important to talk to them to assure them that they are going to be okay no matter what! There are a number of good books out there that may be of assistance to you in preparing to talk with your children and it is also a great idea for you and your spouse to meet with a child therapist to prepare a shared narrative or script for the two of you to have a planned conversation with your children about your upcoming separation. If you are able to plan such a conversation, you will be able to select a time when the children can be in a quiet spot with no distractions and can also alert their teachers that the conversation is occurring so that they can be aware and get in touch with you if they need to. If your children catch you off guard with a direct question about what is going on, or a shared narrative is just not possible, then be prepared to focus on the important messages that they need to hear. Perhaps the most important message to convey is that your children have done nothing wrong, this is not their fault, and this has nothing to do with them. Make sure your children understand that this is an adult decision they have no control over and that mommy and daddy’s biggest concern is that they continue to be safe and happy. You do want to give them permission to continue to love their other parent, and if they can hear you say it in front of the other parent that’s even better! It’s important for them to know that that while mom and dad will each continue to love them and that even if they will have two homes in the future that no one is leaving them; the family is just changing. Let your children know that whatever feelings they are having, they can share them with you and that you will support them however you can!
My input comes from having read many books and spoken to many child therapists and experts throughout my 20+ years as a divorce attorney, and that’s what I recommend you do as well so that you feel better prepared to tackle this tough conversation with your children. I have a more detailed handout that I often provide to clients who have questions about what to tell their children. It was written by Dr. Lisa Herrick, a local psychologist who often works with divorcing parents in collaborative divorce cases. Her website link is below, as well as some other links to helpful reading on the topic:
Author: Teresa S. Cole