Getting a divorce might be one of the most difficult things a person will go through in their lives, but if it seems difficult for you as an adult, imagine what it must feel like for a child. If you are a parent who is going through a divorce, then you are going to have to have the difficult conversation eventually. What we want to do is share a few tips and suggestions that might help make it easier, and less like you are tiptoeing through a minefield.
Seek professional help first
Talk to a family therapist, a child psychologist or another mental health professional and get some input about how to broach the topic from an age-appropriate perspective. You would not talk about divorce with a three-year-old in the same way that you would a nine-year-old. Depending on the emotional maturity and other aspects of your child’s personality, if you have kids in a wide range of ages, you might consider telling the older sibling first so that they can have their reaction and begin to process the news first. You would not want an older child’s unexpected reaction to upset the younger siblings.
Get on the same page with your spouse
As much as possible have a dress-rehearsal conversation with your spouse and agree on what you are going to say, and how much you think is necessary or appropriate to share with the children. In most cases, they do not need to know all the gory details.
Talk to your child with your spouse present
Come together and tell them about your divorce so that they can have the visual of the two of you together and so they can ask questions of each of you and get first-hand answers right away.
Make sure that they feel comfortable coming back to you with questions later
Learning that your parents are getting a divorce can be crushing news for a child that may take a while to process. Let them know that you are available whenever they want to talk or have questions.
Be on the lookout for a change in the child’s behavior
Hearing world-shattering news can make the most mild-mannered child act out.
Learn how to be a good co-parent
Tennessee has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States. Due to concerns about the negative impact that divorce can have on children, the Tennessee State Legislature passed a law requiring divorcing parents to take parent education classes. The University of Tennessee Extension Program has a parenting class called, “Parenting Apart: Effective Co-Parenting,” which is designed to support divorcing parents support their children as they deal with the issues involved in their parent’s divorce.
There is also the Parenting Education Seminar, which is a series of classes to help parents deal with their children and with each other as they navigate the divorce process. Parents can learn how to protect their child’s emotional development, communicate using alternative dispute resolution and other topics related to how divorce can impact a family.
In the end, kids want to know how the divorce will affect them. They want assurance that both of their parents will still be there for them. They want to know where they will live, if they must change schools, how their lives are going to change and they want to feel safe. This divorce is your fight not theirs. Make sure that they understand that it is not their fault. The way you broach the topic of divorce can have a lasting impact on their development as a human being, so give it a lot of thought before you just blurt out the bad news.
If you are sure that it is time to start planning for divorce, but you are concerned about how it will impact your children, the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates can guide and support you through that process. Our experienced divorce attorneys in Franklin, Columbia and Brentwood are prepared to protect your interests and get the best results for you. To schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers, please call 615-977-9370 or fill out our contact form now.