4 tips to help divorcing parents break the news to their children

4 tips to help divorcing parents break the news to their children

When telling kids about divorce, parents should plan a script, present a united front, appreciate the needs of their children and expect mixed responses.

Telling children about an upcoming divorce is a dreaded task for many parents in Jefferson City, Missouri. This news can be traumatic, and many parents aren’t sure of the best way to deliver it. Although each family and situation is unique, most parents can benefit from keeping the following tips in mind when deciding how to inform their children of an approaching divorce.

1. Work together

Psychology Today encourages parents to break the news together and deliver a united message. This can be a difficult task when parents are working through painful emotions and reflecting on the causes of their separation. However, children can benefit from seeing that their parents are taking a mature approach, instead of blaming one another or asking others to take sides.

2. Be prepared

Parents should consider developing a script and practicing breaking the news before actually doing it. They also should be prepared to answer questions about concrete issues, according to Today’s Parent. Children may wonder how often they will see each parent, where they will attend school or where the family pets will live, for example. Parents may benefit from weighing different child custody and visitation arrangements and identifying a working option so that they can provide specific answers to these questions.

3. Appreciate their needs

Parents should also keep the age and maturity of their children in mind when telling them about the divorce. Parents may need to tailor their message to address the following age-based needs:

• Very young children often have questions about concrete issues, and they may have trouble understanding why a divorce is occurring. Parents should offer basic information and be prepared to have multiple conversations about the divorce.

• Children of elementary school age may blame themselves or one parent for the divorce, or they may hold hopes of parental reconciliation. Parents should take time to explain the reasons for their separation more thoroughly to help children avoid feeling responsible for the divorce or experiencing false hope.

• Adolescents may feel emotions such as anger when faced with divorce, and they may deliberately push their parents away. It’s critical that parents make a continued effort to communicate about the divorce and their children’s feelings.

Although children of different ages will approach a divorce differently, Psychology Today recommends that parents break the news to all of their children at once. Delaying telling younger children can place an unfair burden on older children. It can also make younger children feel resentful when they learn that they were left out.

4. Have open expectations

It’s impossible to predict how children will respond to news of divorce, according to Psychology Today. Parents often expect emotions such as sadness and anger. However, children in high-conflict households may actually feel some relief that the conflict will soon be lessened. Many children may experience conflicting emotions. Parents should do their best to acknowledge all of these emotions and help their children work through them.

Parenting after divorce

Before telling children about divorce, parents may benefit from working together to draft a parenting plan. In Missouri, if parents cannot agree to a plan, a family law court must determine one during the divorce. However, breaking the news of divorce may be easier for parents who have already started putting together a plan, whether collaboratively or through professional divorce mediation.

During this process, parents may also want to consider consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on relevant state laws and ensure that a parent’s rights are protected when the final parenting plan is drafted.

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