Although it’s typical for you and your spouse to have all the emotions of any separating couple including anger, fear, disillusionment and depression, an agreement should be made to not to show these emotions in front of the children. Remember that divorce is an emotional time for the children as well. A child’s ability to easily adjust to a new lifestyle depends on how issues are communicated to them, not only by your words but by your actions as well.
When first speaking to your children about your divorce, start with the most important and, immediate issues. Children can become confused or even “zone out” of the discussion if they are given too much information too fast. Children need to know that they will still have a loving home, that all their needs will be met, and that their relationship with both parents will continue. Communicating effectively with your child actually gives him or her the sense of greater responsibility and respect. In conversation, be sure to listen and allow your child to express his or her own opinions.
You and your spouse should remember to be as open as possible, which will reinforce and even enhance the relationship between you and the children.
Discussion beforehand between you and your spouse is important to agree on what areas will be covered when explaining the divorce to your children, not only to plan what will be said, but also rules should be established: Agree to never criticize the other parent in conversation with the children. Pay attention also to body language, rolling the eyes or taking a defensive, arms-crossed posture, could trigger negative feelings. Stay on topic. If another issue comes up, make a note and discuss it at a later time. Listen to what your children are saying, don’t interrupt or finish their sentences for them.
After the discussion is over and the kids are out of earshot, it’s important for you and your spouse to “debrief”: discuss what was said, how each other perceived the child’s reactions, and lay the groundwork for the next discussion.
If the marital relationship has dissolved to the point that calm, rational family discussions are impossible, parents may chose to use a family mediator. Discuss your options with a qualified family attorney for suggestions.