For parents who have decided to separate and divorce, the prospect of breaking this news to the children can be overwhelming—even paralyzing.
This topic will often arise in mediation when parents are still living together and would prefer to resolve matters involving the children (where each parent will live upon separation and what the parenting time schedule will look like) before talking to the children about the impending divorce.
As much as you may dread the thought of this discussion with your children, my experience indicates that, once you have talked with them, the emotional anticipation of the conversation will be replaced by relief that you no longer are keeping something from your children. You may well take some pride in how you handled the challenge.
At one of the first mediation conferences I attended, the keynote presenter was Dr. Joan Kelly, who is internationally recognized as a child psychologist and author of many articles and research studies involving children of divorce. Her insights have proven valuable to many practitioners. In 2009, she authored a valuable publication, “What Should We Tell the Children? A Parent’s Guide for Talking About Separation and Divorce.” I have shared this with many clients. The publication is available for purchase from the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys.
The conversation you have with your children [about your divorce] is the first and perhaps the most important opportunity you will have to show them that you are committed to a constructive co-parenting relationship.
To help you prepare, let me share some key points from Dr. Kelly, along with my own thoughts:
Telling your children about your divorce is an early test of your transition into the future. I encourage you to seek out resources to help you come through this with a sense that you achieved a passing grade, maybe even an A+.