It's a conversation you don't want to have. You dread talking to your children about divorce even more than you worried about asking your spouse for the divorce in the first place. You knew how to have that adult conversation, and you knew what you wanted. But how do you explain all of that to the kids?
What do they know already?
One thing to ask yourself is how much they already know. Is this a high-conflict marriage where they can see the writing on the wall? Or is it a low-conflict situation where the kids don't see the issues in the marriage and probably assume nothing is wrong? What they think about the relationship before you tell them can have a drastic impact on how they react.
Regardless of what they know or the perception they have, though, here are a few important tips to keep in mind:
- Tell them all during a family meeting, with everyone present. Don't break it up at all, telling some kids when it's convenient and saving others for later. Tell them all at once. Make sure no one feels left in the dark. Above all else, make sure you do not have a situation where one of your kids hears the news from someone else, not from you.
- Bring your spouse to that meeting. This is something the kids deserve to hear from both of their parents. Additionally, having both of you there shows that you still care about them, as your kids, even when the marriage is ending. They need that support and they will have a relationship with both of you after the split.
- Don't blame anyone at all. Reassure the kids that you don't blame them. Refrain from blaming your spouse or saying anything negative. That's true even if you think the divorce is their fault. This is a time to share the news and support the children, not to argue about who was at fault and why it happened.
- Get ready to answer all sorts of questions. Give the kids time to ask. Don't rush through it or tell them they don't get any solid answers. They should. As you talk to them, remember that some of their questions may be things you haven't worried much about yourself. Kids have a different perspective.
Overall, your focus must be on compassion and communication. As long as those two areas dominate the conversation, it is going to go as smoothly as it can possibly go.
Putting the kids first
You want to take this attitude of putting the children first and apply it to the entire divorce process. Make sure you know exactly what legal steps to take with that end goal in mind.