How did you talk to your kids about divorce? asks Circle of Moms member Michelle D. “I am in the process of divorcing my kids' dad, but he will not sit down with me to tell them,” she laments. "I need suggestions on how to explain things to them in terms they will understand.”
No question, telling your children is often one of the hardest parts of ending a marriage, say Circle of Moms members who've been through divorce. Here, they share five hard-earned pieces of wisdom on helping your kids get through that fateful conversation — and the changes in their lives that will follow.
1. Be Proactive
Karen J. has gone through divorce twice, and has learned the benefits of bringing her kids in earlier rather than later. ”I feel that the right time to explain it is before they really notice a difference," she says. "You should approach them to talk before they come to you because it makes your child more trusting of you. If they trust you to be honest with them, they will come to you in the future seeking advice about a situation.”
2. Be Honest
Many moms feel that it's best to be truthful with your kids. “As a child of divorce, I would ask you to be honest with them and be ready to answer tough questions,” says Jessica T. "Assure them that this is between you and their dad, that they are all loved by both of you, and that you both want to be with them. This is just healthier for everyone because sometimes grown-ups realize they will get along better living apart.”
Amanda J. agrees, adding that kids will see right through you if you try to fudge the truth. “Remember, they are smarter than we think,” she says. “They are getting bits and pieces and forming their own conclusions, which can bring on anxiety and problems. From here on out you cannot control the ex, what he says or does or doesn't do, but you can be honest and open with [the kids] on your end.”
An upside to being honest, says Jenny, is that "it will ultimately bring the two of you closer together."
3. ...But Not Too Honest
Spare your kids the incriminating reasons for your split, negative information about their father, and your own anxieties about the future, advises Samantha C. “They are kids, they won't understand until they're old enough to know what divorce really actually is,” she says. “To them, it just means Daddy won't be around anymore, and so tell them that, and that they will still see him. They don't need to know the deep down and dirty details of why Daddy won't be around anymore."
Stephanie C is in the same camp. "Keep it simple," she recommends . “I just said that Mommy and Daddy couldn't live together because they could not get along anymore and [my daughter] understood,” she says, adding, "And don’t duke out the details in front of them either."
Several moms also add that it's important to avoid asking your kids to choose between the two of you. "This puts the child under a lot of pressure to take sides and in the long run it can also prove to be quite damaging. You never know what kids will take to heart or misconstrue," says Sara A.
4. Reassure, and Reassure Again
Children whose parents are splitting up are in a very difficult situation, reminds Jenny, and Karen J. advises tuning in to their feelings of vulnerability and fear. "Make sure your kids know they are loved and that they do not have to face this alone. Think before you speak, listen to their responses, and be there to help them face the changes ahead with security, compassion and love," she offers.
Katie C. echos this wisdom, adding that tragedies happen and that human beings can move through them. "...reassure them that they are loved by both of you and that is never going to change. It won't be easy but may come as somewhat of a relief to them."
Finally, Hoi D. and Kay G. add that moms should be mindful that, "Time and time again, children blame themselves for their parents' divorce," and advise telling your child clearly that "they did not cause the divorce,”
5. Get Them Counseling
It is important that children have a safe and neutral place where they can express their feelings. Hoi D. suggests encouraging your kids to ask questions, "and if they're not ready to, tell them you'll be there anytime to answer any questions they may have.”
Other moms suggest providing your child with a therapist or counselor so that they have that safe place, as they may not be ready to have it with you. As Angela H. explains, “They need to be allowed to express their feelings with a neutral person. If they aren't allowed to vent they may suppress their feelings and this is not healthy.”
Mel J. also is a firm believer in giving your kids someone safe to talk to. "Even if nothing seems wrong right now, it's a good idea to let them know there is someone safe to talk to, someone who is not involved personally in what is going on,” she says.”It can help them transition much easier.”
How did you tell your kids about your divorce?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.