For most parents who decide to divorce or at least separate, the first scary hurdle to overcome is often determining how to tell their kids. Your initial conversation can often set the tone for how your children will handle their parents' break-up and how much they'll be emotionally impacted by it now and in the future.
Of course, every break-up is unique, and how you inform your kids will depend in part on their ages and maturity levels. However, there are some key pieces of advice that will help just about everyone prepare for that conversation.
Tell the Kids Together
You and your spouse should have the conversation with your kids together. No matter what your feelings are towards each other, present a united front and assure your children that you'll still both be there for them -- just as a different type of family.
Kids have a tendency to feel responsible for things. Both of you should make sure they understand now and as you go forward that your break-up isn't their fault.
Choose Your Timing Carefully
This will likely be a memory your kids carry forever. News about their parents' break-up is jarring to hear. Don't tell them as they're going off to school in the morning or before they go to bed. It's best to tell them when they'll have some time to digest it when they don't have to deal with other people or be alone.
Avoid holidays and birthdays for these announcements. No one should have to associate these special times of the year with finding out that they're parents were breaking up.
Prepare What You're Going to Say
It's best if you and your spouse work out a draft of what you want to say. That doesn't mean that you'll be reading a speech to your kids. However, having a written draft can help you feel more comfortable when the conversation comes. It doesn't hurt to casually refer to a few notes to be sure that you haven't left out anything you want to say. This will also help ensure that you're on the same page about what you want to say to your kids.
Writing this draft should involve anticipating questions your kids will ask. Often kids simply want to know how the split will impact their daily lives. Assure them that you both will continue to be part of those lives.
If you aren't certain of what you want to say to your kids and/or your spouse isn't being cooperative, you may want to seek the advice of a therapist or support group with people who have been through this. Your family law attorney can likely recommend some sources of help.
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