Telling your children that mum and dad are splitting up may be the most difficult conversation you’ll ever have. For the children, the news can come as a surprise. Many emotions and questions can arise including sadness and anger. Ideally, it can help to break the news carefully to prevent confusion.
Consensus Collaboration Scotland’s highly trained Family Consultants Myra Eadie and Ruth Bradley, have a wealth of experience in supporting people of all ages through the emotional process of divorce and separation. They offer the following tips to parents thinking about telling their children about divorce:
Wherever possible try to choose your timing
Tell the children when you have confirmed the separation but before anyone moves out, to avoid confusion. Also, tell the children when there is plenty of time to talk and be together, not when you’re rushing out of the door to work/school etc.
As challenging as this can feel in the maelstrom of your own emotions, try to present a united front
Tell the children together and agree your main points for the conversation in advance so that you’re both on the same page and not giving confusing mixed messages. Family Consultants who are experienced in offering support to improve communication at highly emotive times, can work with you to support you with this.
Keep it simple and clear
Try to tell them only what they need to know, don’t get into the nitty gritty which they might not comprehend.
As tempting as it may feel, when you may feel hurt and angry, try to avoid blame
Make sure the children know it’s not their fault, it’s an adult decision.
Try to address the changes
Tell them the plan going forwards including living arrangements and when they will see each parent.
Be age aware
Younger children will need less information and things explained to them in the simplest terms, whilst older children will need more information and explanation.
Try to answer questions: children are going to want to know how this is specifically going to affect them. Expect questions like ‘where will I live?’, ‘where will the dog live?’, ‘when will I see dad?’ etc. Family Consultants can support you in responding to your children’s emotional responses.
It can be helpful to inform their teachers
School is where the children will spend the majority of their time, so it’s important that they have the right support to maintain their academic performance, as well as friendships and self-esteem. Schools may also offer a confidential counselling service which some children and young people find very helpful. See our article on collaborating with your child’s school for more information.
Any change in life circumstances takes time to process whatever age we are. Try to give your children time for more questions, to adjust to the news, to let it sink in. Children respond to this in different ways at different times depending on their age, personality and the circumstances involved.
The important thing is that you try to be there to support them together as co-parents and put their interests first. At Consensus Collaboration Scotland, we fully understand how difficult it is to be a parent at the best of times and thus, empathise with the added challenges of parenting when you may well be feeling unsettled, shocked, angry, sad or worried about your future. The Family Consultants are here to help you when this feels like an impossible situation to build on your strengths and support you when it all gets a bit too much.
One of the main aims of Consensus Collaboration Scotland lawyers, financial specialists and family consultants is to help and support couples going through separation or divorce with meeting their children’s needs at what can be a difficult time for everyone. We fully empathise with the complexity of the emotional process which is unique to each individual involved and seek to understand and support you and your family throughout.
If you are considering a separation or divorce and have children, please contact us for further support.
Another excellent resource for young people whose parents are separating or divorcing is Voices in the Middle, with all the content on the website produced by young people themselves.
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