I always tell my clients that a unified parental front is the best way to break the news of a divorce to a child of any age, if possible. If possible, telling your child about the impending divorce together is always best, so long as it can be done in a calm, civilized and cooperative manner. The word “we” should be used generously during the conversation, even if the decision to divorce was decided by only one of the parents.
“We love you” and “this decision has nothing to do with you” are two phrases that cannot be stated enough to your child! Feelings of responsibility and doubt often overwhelm children when their parents decide to divorce and it’s crucial that they be reassured, often.
Children want to know a game plan going forward and they want to know that their world will not be turned completely upside down as a result of their parents’ split. Creating as much normalcy for the child, in terms of his or her routine should dictate. By doing so, you will naturally remain “child-centric.” Being child-centric means always placing your innocent child’s essential needs above your own.
With tweens and teens, make sure they hear the news of your decision to end your marriage directly from you and your partner. Do not wait too long to tell them the truth about the break up or they may feel betrayed by your decision to keep such monumental information from them, that greatly impacts them, if you do wait too long. By waiting too long, you could potentially damage your child’s trust in you and add significantly, albeit unwittingly, to his or her anguish.
Another crucial point to remember, is that after you tell your child about your decision to end the marriage, you must give your child the time and space to realize and own his or her feelings. Do not try to control or influence your child’s reaction. This is critical to their own healing process. Your child did not have a say in your divorce – they did not get a vote. They had zero control over your adult decision. The one thing they should be able to control in this scenario is how they get to feel about it. So let them have their own feelings. Good, bad and ugly- all of them. Just be there to help, understand and, above all, offer your unconditional love and support.