All children are special and they require different forms of parenting. There is no instruction manual, no how-to guide, no cheat code. Unfortunately, a divorce can bring out many difficulties of being a parent.
It is normal to question what to say to your children and how to let them know that a divorce is coming. The answer is not a one-size-fits-all because no two cases are the same. However, despite the gray areas, there are a few points that most lawyers advise their clients to make:
- Let the children know that both parents love them.
- The divorce is not about them in the least.
- Everything will be fine.
This conversation often comes at a time where the questioned parent doesn’t have answers as to where the children will live, what school they will go to, and what the actual custody schedule will be.
As it turns out, this might not be the best advice after all. Time.com recently published an article in which the writer advises that children who are anxious should not be told everything will be O.K.
Rather, it is important for parents to validate children’s worries.
A child psychologist can help parents relay the notion of an impending divorce to their children. As distasteful as it may seem to sit in an office with your soon-to-be ex to come up with a plan to tell the children, it could make all the difference to your children.
What should you do when you don’t have all the answers? First, determine what it is that the child is worried about. Depending on the age, this could be at its simple as wondering whether a favorite toy will be able to come to a new home. Determining a child’s worries avoids compounding the problem by giving more information than might be necessary, thereby causing more stress. Give what answers you can, without scaring the child. For instance, when a child asks which parent he or she will live with in the middle of a custody evaluation, be honest. Tell the child that mom and dad haven’t made that decision yet and the judge and other professionals are going to help make that decision. Don’t ask a young child for his or her preference. This places the child in the unreasonable position of having to choose one parent over the other. Regardless of how you feel about your soon-to-be ex, most children love both parents equally and unconditionally.
Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” but say it reassuringly. For a parent who does not anticipate being able to stay in the same school district, assuring that the child will be part of the process of finding a new residence can make the child feel part of the decision-making. This can alleviate some of the fears and anxiety. “I don’t know” is not a perfect answer, but it is better than the child being kept completely in the dark until the day the divorce is over.