“Mommy and daddy are getting divorced” are words all parents hope they will never have to utter…
Divorce is hard and will shake you to the core.
But, what’s even harder than coming to terms with the end of your marriage, is telling your children about the decision to end your marriage!
It’s a conversation that you and your children will remember for the rest of your lives…
So, how you do it matters. A lot.
Timing is everything – and so is presenting a united, stable front. Founder of the SA Divorce Support Association, counsellor and mediator Nadia Thonnard encourages parents to prepare (and even rehearse) as much as possible beforehand so that they are composed, and not emotional when they tackle the topic.
“Emotional parents are not very skilled at managing emotional children”.
We asked Nadia for some advice on having this tough conversation with kids:
Don’t try to ‘fix’ their feelings
Parents are ‘fixers’ by nature. We constantly over-analyse how our kids feel and try to make things better for them…
When it comes to divorce, it’s best to take a step back. Don’t assume how your children will react, and let them feel all the feelings – even if those feelings are confusing or unsettling to you!
They might be heartbroken, or angry or they might surprise you, and act like it’s nothing, relieved that the household tension will come to an end.
Whatever your children feel, you need to give them the space to feel that.
Easier said than done, we know – but, take heart, children are resilient and will get over it!
It’s tempting and natural, to try to justify the reasons behind your decision to go your separate ways
It’s natural to want to justify everything
It’s tempting and natural, to try to justify the reasons behind your decision to go your separate ways.
We somehow feel, that if we can justify divorce, it will make it more acceptable.
Remember, though – your divorce is an adult issue. And, however mature you believe your children to be, they are, at the end of the day, just kids who are not emotionally equipped to understand the complexity of a failed relationship – especially if that relationship is between mom and dad.
Remind your kids that your relationship with each other may be set to change, but that will not affect the relationship that you have with them, or how much you love them!
Liar, liar pants on fire
No parent wants to hurt their kids, which sometimes makes lying seem like a good idea. While you may want to spare them hurt, lying is never a good idea as it eventually breaks trust.
Having said that, you should only share age-appropriate information with your kids – and what you share, should largely depend on their age and emotional maturity.
Good advice is to work according to a need-to-know basis; limit what you share to what’s happening in terms of your child’s life – and not yours!
DON’T make promises… especially promises that you won’t be able to keep! We’re all guilty of over-compensating when we try to make something up to our kids, but promising the world to try and soothe your guilt, will only momentarily make your child feel better. And, will backfire when you under-deliver.
Stuck in the middle
It’s natural that you and your soon-to-be ex will be at loggerheads in the coming months and years. Be mindful, that when you do experience conflict, that your kids don’t find themselves in the middle.
Remember to keep your heart on them and their emotional well-being, in everything that you do.