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There is no easy way to tell your children about divorce. Fortunately, there are some very good tips to help you and your spouse come up with the best way to break the news. When preparing to have that talk, consider the following:
(1) Parents need to be together when the children are told about the divorce.
(2) Children need the truth, but not all of the details. Answer your children’s questions in an age-appropriate manner. Sharing the sordid details (if there are any) is not necessary. Too much "adult information" could cause undue stress and loyalty issues for your child. Keep it basic. Use words that facilitate your child's continued love and respect for both parents.
(3) Children need to be prepared for how their lives will look – in tangible terms. Tell them about the schedule. Tell them about their new room. Tell them about their new neighborhood. Talk with them about which one of you will be taking them to their activities. Kids are focused on themselves and want to know that all of the details of their lives have been thoughtfully considered and taken care of.
(4) Do everything you can to make the children feel secure and loved. More hugs than usual are often needed when you are in the process of separating. Realize that children don’t always express their feelings, needs, and fears “on schedule”. Be prepared for spontaneous eruptions of emotion and, at least while the children are in transition, give them your undivided attention when it looks like they are ready to talk.
(5) Assure your children that the divorce is not their fault. Lots of children make the mistake of assuming the divorce is their fault. Sometimes this is well-founded if the children have heard and/or seen their parents argue over matters involving them. Make sure to listen to your children about why they think the divorce might be their fault. Even if they don't articulate this concern, you will need to be ready with answers that your child can grasp. Remember, children often believe that the world revolves around them, so you need to balance your answers with that in mind.
(6) Don’t give your children false hope of a reconciliation. Many children have a secret dream that their parents will magically reconcile. Though giving your children hope that you and you ex will one day get along better (if you are not presently experiencing an amicable separation) don't leave the door open for hopeful reconciliation if that is not actually in the cards. That kind of false hope could lead to tremendous disappointment and even disillusionment about family, love, and security.
(7) Children process information in their own unique way. Before you sit down to talk with your children about your impending divorce, think about how your particular child hears, absorbs, processes and utilizes information. Remember: Just because a big expert in the field says that “x” is what your child needs to know, that advice may not work with your specific child. Your child is precious. You only have one shot at this.
Understand that, your child will never forget the moment that they are told that their family, as they know it, has come to an end.
If you accept the changes in your life gracefully, and get busy building a new and wonderful life, your children will be happy to come along with you on that journey.
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