No one decides to get married with eventual divorce in mind, but sometimes things change and divorce is a natural progression. While the end of the relationship may be challenging for you and your spouse, the process will get more difficult if you have children involved. One of the first steps in a divorce, outside of contacting an experienced New Mexico family law attorney, is also one of the hardest when kids are involved: telling them about it.
Think About the Setting and the Circumstances
Research has revealed that children with divorced parents clearly recall the moment they found out it was happening, and this was true regardless of how many years ago it was. This demonstrates just how much of an impact the revelation of a divorce has on kids, as they never fully forget when they first hear about it. Carefully consider the circumstances around and setting of the discussion. It’s not something to blurt out in the middle of a birthday party, for example, no matter how much you naturally want to get it over with.
Tell Them All at Once
Many parents consider telling the oldest child first as they are “stronger” and can handle the full impact of the news. This, however, can create issues within your family’s dynamic. Now, your oldest will feel the burden of keeping your divorce a secret from their siblings. It also may make the older child feel as if they have to be stronger and can’t fully express their emotions. Last but certainly not least, this will make your younger children feel as if they can’t handle problems when they discover their older sibling was told before they were.
Don’t Assume Any Responses
While you may understand your kids very well and can normally predict their responses, emotionally traumatic news like divorce can elicit a response from your child you would never have predicted. A child who is normally tough when it comes to difficult topics may break down when learning of a divorce. Instead of thinking that you know how your kids will react, go into the conversation without any preconceived notions and allow your kids to feel their emotions as they come. Giving them the support they need at this time in their lives also means allowing them to feel and express their emotions.
Be Honest in Your Answers
It is only natural to want to protect your children as you and your spouse go through a divorce. However, you can’t stop your kids from experiencing negative emotions in life. Since they are essentially being placed into an adult situation despite their age, it’s best to answer their questions as honestly as you can. Let them know why the divorce is happening so they are able to process it. If you keep them in the dark, they will only be more anxious and may even blame themselves for the split.
Be Unified in Your Presentation
If at all possible, both you and your spouse should tell the children about the divorce together. Rehearse the conversation together and think about what types of questions your kids may ask and what answers you can give so you are better prepared. Research has shown that children who learn about the divorce from both parents at the same time fare better than those who hear it separately.
By having a plan in place to tell your kids about your divorce, you can help them work through the process in a healthy way. Get on the same page with your spouse and approach your kids with the news at the right place and time.