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Telling Your Children About Your Divorce: Five Tips

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Legal Advise for parents getting a divorce

Telling Your Children About Your Divorce: Five Tips

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For many couples, the toughest part of getting a divorce is helping their children through the process, from explaining the divorce to each child, to making sure that the children successfully navigate all the changes that come along with their parents splitting up.

Below, we’ve shared five tips from our parenting consultant about how to start the initial divorce conversation with your children – and how to keep lines of communication open beyond that first talk.

Plan the conversation ahead of time.
This is not a casual conversation. Before you sit down with your children, sit down with your spouse, if possible, and plan what to say and how to say it. Talk about logistics, such as who will be living where, and be prepared to answer some tough questions from your children. Write down anything that you absolutely don’t want to forget to say, like, “We both love you very much,” and “this isn’t your fault,” and “We will both still be there for you when you need us.”

Don’t assign blame. It’s best to talk to your children about the divorce as a couple and to present a loving, united front when it can be done with minimal emotion and without conflict. Even though your romantic relationship and partnership have ended, you and your spouse will now begin your co-parenting relationship. Since you will probably be telling your children that both parents will continue being a loving presence in their lives, and that the family will continue to function as a family, it is important to show the beginning of this new chapter by presenting it together.

Listen to your children. While the first part of your conversation should be you explaining the divorce and likely future family changes, you should also understand that the second half of the conversation should be a time for your children to voice concerns and ask questions. Take their concerns seriously and answer their questions honestly. Acknowledge their feelings and truly listen to what they have to say. Make sure you have talked with your spouse and agreed upon the answers to common questions. Also remember: it’s okay to say, “I don’t know but we will figure it out,” if you don’t know.

Make the conversation age appropriate. As you might imagine, telling your four-year-old about your divorce will be very different than telling your 16-year-old about your divorce. Don’t overwhelm younger children with information they won’t know how to process, and don’t over simplify divorce for teens who may need a more detailed explanation of what’s happening and why. Realize that if you have both younger and older children, you may need to have two different conversations at two different times.

Keep the conversation ongoing. One of the biggest mistakes parents can make when talking to their kids about divorce is to “drop a bomb” for one big talk, sitting them down telling them what’s going on initially – and then never talking openly about it again. You can begin broaching the subject by normalizing the situation for your children. Remind them about a friend whose parents are divorced and ask how it is working for them to have two homes. You can say things like, “We might do that too and it would okay.” Be sure to continue to talk to your children about the changes that are taking place, be sure to continue to listen to their concerns, and be sure to sit down with them more than once to go over what is happening and why.

At Montana Legal Advisors, we have a full-time parenting consultant who helps our clients navigate every aspect of divorce with children, including parenting plans, child visitation schedules, child support, and guardianship issues. To learn more about our services, please call us today at 406-540-4172.

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