It’s the conversations anyone going through a divorce dreads the most: breaking the news to their children. No matter how perfectly you plan the talk and execute it, your children will still need time to process their emotions and feelings after receiving the life-altering news of their parents’ divorce. While it is true that a significant number of marriages end in divorce—nearly 50 percent—it is still, to a certain degree, traumatizing to children directly affected by it. By the way, this also includes adult children.
- Do not fight with your ex-spouse in front of your children or talk poorly about them to your children. Study after study shows that children exposed to raw conflict between their parents are likely to experience both acute and long-term mental and emotional problems. Battling with your spouse in front of your kids will cause them to feel torn between their two parents. This will exacerbate the anxiety already in place from the divorce itself. If you feel the need to vent to someone about all the ways your ex-spouse is driving you up the wall, then enlist the services of caring friends or a therapist. We have relationships with many experts in this area if you are in need of a referral. Finally, especially when talking to your children, recall all the things that you love about your spouse even if most of them feel distant to you in the present. There are reasons that you fell in love, and reasons that you got married; and reasons you had children together. Share them with your children.
- Listen to your children. Your children will not always be ready to strike up a conversation about how divorce is affecting them, even if you poke and prod them to open up. The vast majority of children, though, will want to discuss their parents’ divorce with their parents at some point. This piece of advice might seem obvious, but the importance of simply being there for your children and validating their feelings cannot be overstated. Give weight to their feelings and rather than minimize them; ratify their feelings. If they ask how you are feeling, be honest with them. It helps to know that their parents are human, too. A great way to help your children feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you is to gently ask during a relatively calming activity, like walking the dog or baking a tasty dessert.
- Minimize disruption to daily routines. Divorce or not, change is inevitable. Many changes after a divorce are unavoidable. Your child’s stress levels will be decreased, however, if you are successfully able to minimize disruptions. Some ages, such as tweens, are especially delicate and sensitive to modifications in daily routines, so be mindful of the amount of disruption your children are experiencing.
Your children are as strong as you are, so if you are having trouble coping with your recent divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network or mental health professionals, or, contact us for a referral. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability to your children – indeed this may be a valuable life lesson. Above all, being a loving and positive presence for your children is the most effective way to ease their stress levels during this time of upheaval. We have a short article written by a professional child psychologist that we share with our clients to further assist them in breaking the news to children that their parents are getting a divorce. For caring and compassionate legal guidance for your family law situation, please reach out to McConnell Family Law Group today at 860-266-1166 and 203-344-7007.