There are lots of hard conversations that come with divorce. One of them is telling your kids about your divorce. While the moment may become permanently etched in your mind, the same is not necessarily true for your children provided you do it right.
My current guest, Missy had three children who were aged two, four and six at the time of her divorce. Here’s Missy:
We decided to tell the kids together, because we had both read that that’s the best way to do it.
It was at our home in the living room and we explained it. Again, they were very, very young. We wanted them to all three be together.
That’s been one of my strong convictions, that I want these three children to experience this together. I don’t want one to go with one parent one weekend and the other the other weekend. Even though some one-on-one time is important, I don’t want that to be the norm, because no matter what, these three are going to have the same shared experience and I want them to be able to grow up and look at each other and say, “Oh, remember when that happened? I was there when that happened to you.”
They’re not going to have two parents that have been there for every experience. So, I want them to have that history together since they won’t have it naturally from their parents.
The little one was two. He doesn’t remember life before this divorce. He just doesn’t. The older two do remember a little bit, especially our oldest. But he was very matter-of-fact about it and not emotional and just wanted to know some of the details like, “Are we still going to get to see daddy? Will I have a bed? Will we get to go to the same school?” He wanted to know how this was going to affect him pretty much.
My daughter was four at the time. She instantly cried and I think it was reflective of her parents. She was reflecting our emotions, because it was a difficult day, without a doubt. Then she was OK and within about five minutes they were like, “Okay, now what’s for dinner,” and they were just moving on.
They didn’t, of course, understand the full ramifications of it at that time.
I remember one time shortly after he moved out and things were a bit chaotic there in those first couple of months. He didn’t see them real regularly. We were just driving along, I think back from church and my daughter from my back seat of the van just said, “Our dad’s gone. We don’t have a dad anymore.” Very matter-of-fact. She was not emotional about this, but out of sight, out of mind.
I remember stopping the van on the road, pulling over and looking back and saying, “You do have a dad. He’s not in our home, but you have a daddy,” and just reassuring her that “You have a dad even though it looks differently right now.”
The Divorce Coach Says
This is one of those conversations I think we all dread. How you handle this can set the tone for the transition to two households so it is absolutely worth putting some time and energy into the planning and preparation. Key points to take from this segment:
- You and your STBX delivering the message together is the best as it ensures the same initial message from both of you.
- Telling all your children together is best. Again, this ensures that the children all hear the same message.
- Keep it short and direct. With any kind of shocking news, it’s impossible to take in details during those initial moments.
- Share any details of how your children’s daily lives will be impacted. Be honest – if you don’t know if you will be keeping the family home, say so but keep it simple, factual and non-dramatic.
- Expect different reactions from your children.
- Have an activity to do afterwards if your children just want to be with you.
- Make yourself available for questions.
With older children, such as college-age kids or even adult children, this conversation is just as important but the logistics are more complicated. It may simply be impossible for you and your STBX to be together to deliver your news. It may also be impossible to wait for your children to be together.
If you haven’t told your children yet, how are you preparing for the conversation?
How did you tell your children? What questions did they have? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.