Is there a right or wrong way to tell children Mama and Dada are no longer living in the same house, and that things are going to change for everyone? It’s a conversation that is difficult, saddening, and hard for kids to understand. So how can we make this conversation the best it can be, so they understand and still feel some hope for happiness in the future?
A General Guideline To Follow
When telling kids about divorce
Heather Westberg and her colleagues in Utah published the results of in-depth interviews of children of divorce, this guideline is from the studies of Westberg, as well as my recent experience of telling my children just this past Monday (two days ago!). I’m writing about this topic while it is still fresh in my mind to help other parents with this unfortunate family meeting they are about to undergo.
- The setting… where you tell your kids about the divorce is very important! being told about the divorce is something kids will remember for a long time. This is a huge deal for them, even more so than the parents, so keep that in mind! My ex husband and I agreed to tell the kids in the home we were in the process of selling. We didn’t want to do it in our new places of residence so that memory would not be in the new chapter of our new lives. Find a good place that is private, that they can walk away from and not have to return to (if possible).
Westberg’s study shows that the memory of finding out sticks with children, potentially bringing back the pain when recalled. Unfortunately, many children do not forget that day.
- Make sure everyone is accounted for, kids and both parents! Call for a family meeting, tell them there is something important to discuss and that everyone needs to be present. Never tell one kid at a time, it puts pressure on them to have a secret and to hide their emotions. My ex and I sat our 6-year-old and 7-year-old on the couch, as I sat on one side and he on the other as we told our beautiful children about our not so beautiful topic. Having both parents there to talk about this and help comfort and support the kids is vital. They need to know that both parents are on the same page and are there for them.
- Before you tell your young kids, prepare them for the inevitable! We decided to do a dry run-through of how it will be first before telling the kids. The week before we told our kids… my kids and I slept at my folks house on my days (with one day a sleep over at the other grandparents house), then on my ex’s days the kids went to sleep over at his place). that way my young ones had an idea of how it’s going to be from now on and it wouldn’t be so scary/ fearful for them… it actually made it easier to explain as well.
- Try your best to keep it positive! It’s an un-fun conversation, a hard one at that! but focus on the positive and don’t over explain it. Since we did a practice run the week before, we began the conversation by saying… ‘you know how we lived this week?! how you spent time with mama, then slept over at the grandparents, then on dada’s days off you spent those days with him?! well from now on this is how we will live… Mama and dada will not be living together anymore, so from now on you will live with mama on these days, and on dada’s days off you’ll live with dada in his new place and you can decorate your rooms how you want in both homes, you will be able to see everyone still, both sets of grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunties, etc… We love you very much, and mama will always be your mama and will always be there for you and love you, and dada will always be your dada and always be there for you and love you. Some times things don’t work out, but no one is to blame for this! (hold and love your kids!)
- How your kids react may shock you, never assume you know how they’ll feel! Some may feel sad or mad, some may feel relieved and happy! The best thing you can do after telling your kids is to tell them “how ever you feel is okay, you have a right to feel that way and know that mama and dada are here for you!” My kids took it hard, they cried a while, so lots of hugs and kisses were necessary!
- Ask them if they have any questions! This is important, don’t skip this step! My kids had questions, they mainly asked certain questions just to double-check. Example: ‘so when we live with mama we’ll be sleeping at grandma and grandpa’s?’ (on my side… they call my mom Mamie- grandma in french! and my dad- Big Daddy!). Yes! was the answer… and we’ll be with dada when he’s not working? yes!
- Be Adults about it! Don’t EVER talk bad about the other parent in front of the kids… this is damaging to the children, NOT your ex! your ex could give a crap, they’ve moved on, BUT your kids will ALWAYS be effected by this… remind your extended family about this as well. No negative talk around the kids, if you need to vent do so when you’re out with your friends FAR away from your kids!
- Parents, be flexible! It’ll be easier for everyone…if your kids want to go see the other parent or other family, check with them and make it happen! OR if something comes up, work together to make it easiest for the kids… Kids come first!
Have a healthy co-parenting lifestyle people! it will make life more pleasant for everyone involved, always choose to be the bigger person, and enjoy your new way of life! Divorce is not the end of the world, stay positive and be happy!
I had to add this photo because it is EXTREMELY important!
Good luck to all parents who are about to talk to their kids about their divorce… Speak from the heart!
1st photo by: quotes.land
last photo by: famzee.com