The Talk: Discussing Divorce with Your Kids
Everyone would like a happily ever after, but, unfortunately, many relationships don't have them. When a relationship ends, life can get hard.
Having to move out of the place you've shared with another causes a great deal of emotional pain.
There are two legal ways a relationship can end in Canada: separation and divorce. Separation is when a couple who has been living together for a period of time decides to split up. Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage and can only be used by those people who have been married.
Divorce is never easy, but on occasion it is necessary. When a couple gets divorced, it is rarely just the two parties that are affected. Friends, family, and even work associates can feel the pain of those involved. However, the group of people affected the most during a divorce is children.
It is important to understand how your children will handle this process and to approach it in a proper, positive manner.
Talk to Your Children
Even before you sit them down, your children may pick up signals that something is wrong. It's important to explain the situation to them, preferably jointly, as soon as possible. It's also recommended that you discuss this over a series of short talks, instead of unloading all the information on them at once. Too much information at one time can overwhelm a child.
It's not uncommon for children to blame themselves during this process. They may feel if they behaved better or if they tried harder, then you wouldn't be getting a divorce. Explain to them that this isn't their fault, and nothing they could have done would fix the problems.
Keep the age of your children in mind when delivering this news. Younger children will have a harder time interpreting the situation than older children will.
Most importantly, be as clear as you can when discussing the situation without offering too many details about the reasons for the breakdown. Your children do not need to be burdened with the legal process.
Allow Them to Cope
During this difficult time, children are likely to experience a range of emotional responses. Fear, anger, sadness, and confusion are common feelings children have when their parents are going through a divorce. It is important that your children understand and know that the divorce is not their fault, and there was nothing they could do to fix it.
Reassure your children of your love for them. Children often fear that the divorce means their parents don't love them. It's important your children continue to feel loved and supported during this process.
Younger children will be confused and will need to talk about their feelings. They may not have the ability to articulate their feelings properly. Be patient with your son or daughter as they try. Listen attentively, without interrupting, as they try and put their feelings into words.
Older children may have a better understanding of what is going on. While this may help in their ability to deal with what is going on, try not to burden them with additional details of the divorce proceedings. Where possible, children of any age should not be heavily involved in the divorce process.
If your children are unwilling or unable to talk to you about their feelings, make sure they have an outlet for emotions. This can be a friend, a school counsellor, or a trained therapist.
Life after Divorce
Once legal agreements or orders are in place, let your children know exactly what to expect the new living situation to be. Writing the schedule on a calendar often assists the children in knowing and following the new parenting times. Do your best to keep their day-to-day lives the same as possible. This will help to aid in the transition process. Routine provides a sense of safety and comfort the child might not feel otherwise.
Do your best to keep a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse after the divorce. Don't say negative things about him or her to your children. Your children will still have strong feelings for each parent. If you keep things polite during those few occasions you do have to see your ex, your children will find it easier to cope.
If you are having trouble keeping your words positive, find a friend or a counselor to discuss any past lingering resentment.
Maintain the lines of communication between your kids and their other parent. Not allowing your child to talk to their other parent can create additional stress and pain for them. Make sure that you stay in communication with your former spouse when it comes to your children's medical conditions, education, or other important parts of their lives.
Divorce can be difficult for everyone in the family. Make sure grandparents, aunts, and uncles from both sides are still a part of your children's lives. Make or allow time with extended members of the family, as these relationships are important to maintain.
The end of a marriage can cause pain and heartache, but in some situations, it can bring relief and a fresh start. If you are going through a divorce, ask your legal professional how best to talk to your children. Reassuring your children of your love for them is paramount in ensuring your relationship with them.