Once Jen knew she want to end her marriage and she’d told her husband, they still had to tell their children. However, with some helpful guidance, it wasn’t as bad as Jen thought it would be. Here’s Jen:
Our mediator gave us some what I thought was good advice. He said,
Your children are going to mirror how you react, so if you sit down and have this ‘woe to me, my family is breaking up’ attitude, they’re going to mirror that. Or you can sit down and be positive about things. You say ‘look, we’re still your mom and dad, we still love you and we’re going to be there for everything and this is going to be better in the long run for everyone’ and then you go do something fun as a family so that they know that you guys are really committed….
And that’s what we did. We sat down and said,
“We love you, we’re still your mom and dad, we’re still your parents. Every parent-teacher conference, we’ll be there. You guys have something you want us to go to, we’ll be there. You guys want to go bowling?”
And then we went bowling.
My eleven-year-old cried a little bit. My oldest son, I think he kind of knew because he wasn’t surprised. He just said,
“I kind of had a feeling something was up.”
My four-year-old didn’t get it at all, he was just bouncing around. But then we all went out and we went bowling and we just had a good time and there really haven’t been any traumatic, sad moments. We’ve had a couple of times when my kids have said,
“I miss our old house, I miss us being together”
and I’ve said,
“You know what buddy, I miss that too. We had a great house and it was fun, but we’re going to have another one and we’re just going to keep pluggin’ along.”
It was way better than I anticipated. I anticipated therapy and meltdowns. I really was waiting for the worst and they’ve been incredible.
Part of why I didn’t want to go through the divorce was because I was like “I could never be a single mom and I could never go back to school and I could never…blah blah blah blah.” And now, I’ve done all of it. I’ve gone back to school and done well in school and I’m raising my boys and they’re happy.
I don’t get all down and depressed in front of them. Not that I don’t ever feel that way, but I just try to be upbeat with them “hey life is good, and we’re moving on and everything’s going to work out.” I’m surprised I was able to drum up that, even…
I anticipated the worse. I thought they were going to be destroyed but they weren’t.
The Divorce Coach Says
Telling your children is never going to be easy, even if they are adults. I still remember the dread I felt about telling my children. The thought of it made me sick to my stomach. Like Jen, we had gotten advice from our separate counselors. We’d talked about and role-played the meeting. And just like Jen, it was over very quickly. My daughter was thirteen at the time and she didn’t say very much. My son was ten and he did cry a little. He had a sleepover at a friend’s house that evening and he still wanted to go. So we told his friend’s parents so they could keep an eye on him.
I also remember the feeling of relief once they knew. It was huge weight off my shoulders. We hadn’t really told anyone we were getting divorced – we didn’t want the children hearing it from anyone else, like a friend’s parent accidentally letting something slip in an unguarded moment. That was very stressful and the relief came almost instantly.Finally, I felt like I could breathe.
As I recall, here are some of the guidelines we were given for telling our children:
- call your family together and tell everyone at the same time
- agree with your spouse what you’re going to say, avoid blame, keep the language neutral
- keep it factual and short
- if the kids ask a question and you don’t know the answer yet, such as where you’ll be living, tell them that
Any other suggestions?
Photo credit: anna_t