Pickle says…. Divorce is a horrible time for everyone, but especially us children. Even when we are very young we are aware of far more than you may realise. And we hear. We hear things you may not remember or think we have heard. We have some great tips and advice for you if you are at any stage of divorce…
- I need both of you in my life. Both of you please keep in touch with me, especially the one of you that no longer lives with me. If you don’t, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
- Can you both stop arguing and try to get on with each other. Please try to agree on everything and anything related to me. When you argue about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
- I love you both and I want to enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and that I should love one of you more than the other.
- Please communicate directly with each other and don’t send messages via me back and forth between you.
- When talking about my other parent, please say only kind things, or don’t say anything at all. If you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side and that makes me sad.
- Please remember that I want both of you in my life. I need both of you in my life. I need you both to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I am struggling.
(Adapted from University of Missouri).
When it comes to telling your children about your divorce, prepare what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk. If you try and deal with your own anxieties, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children handle the news. There are lots of resources on the NFM website.
Give your children the benefit of an honest child-friendly explanation:
Tell the truth. Choose something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” Remind your children that you both still love them. Regardless of how much or how little you decide to tell your kids, you should always be truthful. Answer truthfully when your children have questions or concerns. If you don’t know the answer, say gently that you aren’t sure right now, but that you’ll find out and it will be okay.
Say “I love you.”
Acknowledge changes. Let them know that some things will be different, and other things will stay the same, but that together you will face and deal with it all. Things won’t always be easy, but it will work be ok.
Avoid blaming It’s crucial to be honest with your kids, but don’t be critical of your spouse. This can be extremely difficult, but you must try your hardest – even if your spouse isn’t.
Present a united front. If at all possible, try to both agree on an explanation for your separation or divorce, and stick to it.
Plan your conversations. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. And plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.
Show restraint. Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.
Be age-aware. Generally younger children need less information and a simple explanation will be better. Older kids may need more information, and will have more questions
Share logistical information. Tell your children about any changes in their living arrangements, school, or regular activities, but don’t overwhelm them with all the details.
Allow your children to grieve the loss of the relationship.
Listen. Encourage your child to share their feelings and really listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.
Encourage them to talk. It’s normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. Be aware of their moods and encourage them to talk.
Let them be honest. Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay.
Keep the communication open. As your children get older, they may have new questions, feelings, or concerns about what happened.
Acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to fix it or change their sadness, but it is important that you let them know you hear them and you understand.
Let the children know it is not their fault.
Set the record straight. Repeat the real reason why you are getting divorced.
Be patient. They may seem to understand one day but feel unsure the next. Be patient with them.
Reassure. Remind your children that both of you love them very much and that they are not responsible for the divorce. Be physically close, hug or cuddle them.