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Some Thoughts on the Effects of Divorce on Children: Breaking the News

One of the most common emotional stories that clients rely to me is about the time they sat their children down to tell them that mom and dad were getting a divorce. My heart sinks every time I hear that my client is about to have this tender conversation or has already had it. Most of the time, I am very impressed with how my client has handled the situation, but sometimes, my client seeks my advice about how to maneuver through this conversation. While I know my clients have the best intentions and are dealing with their situations as best as they know how, I would like to offer some advice as to how to break the news in the gentlest, yet effective way possible:

Write a Script. Before the conversation, take some time to write down your thoughts in an orderly fashion. This will help guide you during this highly- emotional conversation. You can expect that it will not go exactly as planned, but if you have an idea of what you would like to communicate, you will feel more comfortable going in.

Do It Together. First, while you may be frustrated with your spouse, remember that you will have to co-parent after the divorce, thus, providing a united front and sharing the news of your divorce together will help in this eventual endeavor. It is important that you and your spouse discuss the conversation together and plan on relying the information together.

No Blame Game Allowed. That being said, while you and your spouse share the news of your divorce together, it is imperative that neither of you places blame on the other. This is a theme that will have to remain each and every time you speak to the children, as well as to each other in front of the children. Blaming one spouse in front of the children only confuses them and makes them feel like they have to choose sides. It also paints one parent in a bad light, a light that no child should ever have to see. As far as the children are concerned, your decision to get a divorce is a mutual decision that you and your spouse came to together.

Spare Details. During this emotional conversation, the children will likely ask why this is happening. As a general rule, less is more. Divorce is an adult decision that comes with adult-only details. Instead of giving the children in depth details, assure them that it is not their fault and that it does not change your love for them. Tell them that mom and dad will be their best selves in two different houses and that this is the best way for you to do your best job loving them. Make sure the children leave the conversation knowing it is not their fault.

Focus On The Positive. While you may be having a difficult time seeing anything positive in your current situation, focus on the positives of how the children have two people in their lives that love them so much and that they both want special time with them. Before the conversation, really take some time to think about what positive aspects exist.

Expect Questions. After your initial conversation, there will be questions. Often, the questions will come at unexpected times and may seem puzzling. However, it is important that the children know what will happen to them so that they feel secure. Answer the questions honestly without placing blame or sounding angry or bitter.

Avoid Creating a Sense of Abandonment. The day of your initial conversation, try staying in the same home that day and/or night. If possible, try going doing an activity together, like going to a movie or the park. This will show that despite the divorce, you will provide a united front as far as their care is concerned and will not abandon them.

Put Your Children First. Above all, put your children first. Put aside your own differences while in the company of your children. Don’t let your choices ruin your children’s potential!

If you have any questions or would like additional advice about how to get through this trying time, please call me at 612-805-0144.

Tags: Child Custody, Custody, Dispute Resolution, dissolution, divorce, family law
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