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Telling the Kids
One question that often comes to mind as a couple considers divorce is: “How do we tell the kids?” This can be a difficult and scary task. Many parents fear the questions their children may ask, such as: “Is this my fault?” and “Does Mommy/Daddy still love us?” Another prospect that strikes fear into the hearts of many parents is that their divorce may negatively impact their children and their children’s future relationship. These are, of course, legitimate concerns. However, armed with the right tools and information, parents may be able to better handle this very sensitive subject.
It’s not your fault
One of the first fears or concerns that many children have after learning that their parents are getting divorced is: “It is my fault?” In response, it is important to instill in your children, as often as necessary, that they are in no way responsible for your divorce. How a child is informed about their parents’ divorce and how parents respond to each other during the course of a divorce can have a lasting impact on the child’s view of relationships, marriage, and even their parents. Thus, in order to mitigate the damage caused by the family breakup, it is important that you and your spouse reassure your children, through both words and actions and as many times as is possible, that the divorce is in no way their fault.
Parents going through a divorce must decide early on how to minimize any damage that the divorce may cause to their relationship with their children.
Mommy and Daddy still love you
Another concern that children often express is the concern that the departing parent no longer loves them or is abandoning them. In order to ensure that a child continues to have a healthy and happy relationship with both parents, this concern must also be dispelled early on. One of the first statements that you should make to your child, after reassuring them that the divorce is not their fault, is that both Mommy and Daddy still love them. However, it is important that both you and your spouse do not just say these words but live them as well. Refraining from casting your spouse in a negative light around your children in addition to encouraging your children to spend time with their other parent as often as possible are great ways for you to show your children that they will always have the love and support of both parents.
Children are not your therapist
Finally, parents should also remember that their children are not their therapists or their lawyers. Therefore, sharing the legal and emotional aspects of a divorce is something that parents should avoid at all costs. Facing the prospect of divorce is already a difficult task for children and bearing the additional burden of their parents’ emotional or legal concerns will likely be too much for their tiny shoulders to bear. Parenting books, attorneys, therapists, counselors and support groups are all viable alternatives and may be a wonderful way to provide both parents and children with the additional support they need during the divorce.
It is essential for parents going through a divorce to decide early on how to minimize any damage that the divorce may cause to their relationship with their children as well as emotional damage their children may suffer as a result of the divorce. Informing your child about the divorce is only the first step in the process. This joint effort must start as soon as possible, continue during the entire divorce process, and continue forward post-divorce as well. After the divorce is final, you and your spouse may no longer be bound by marriage, but you will always be parents. Thus, it is important to try to work together early on to ease your children through the transitions brought on by divorce.