It’s likely that your kids know more than you think they do. They watch every move you make and they are tuned in to whether or not you seem ok. Start with the right goal of leaving your kids as comfortable as possible given that their life is about to change and communicating that although you may be sad, you are both OK.
Have a plan to hold your emotions in check during this conversation and keep things positive. One parent should do the communicating and the other nods and supports. They need to hear that you are OK and that you will work to keep their lives going as usual if possible. And it might actually be a fun adventure with double holiday celebrations!
What you say depends on their ages. Children may not know the word “divorce” and hearing it could be scary. Kids will react in a variety of ways and it may take more talking to assure a child that they may actually see you more than they have before and that this is a good thing.
If your kids are very young (3-6 age range) keep it very simple. Say things like,
We are going to be in separate houses going forward….
We love you no matter what…
We have figured out that we can parent better if we are apart….
We love you no matter what…. You did nothing wrong….
You will have more time with each of us….
Things are going to change…but it’s all good…
If your kids are in the teen or tween range, it’s more difficult because they are starting to build their own relationships. Say, “you may be aware that there has been tension between us and we want to make that better for you.” And be open to a variety of reactions.
Following the discussion, one idea is to order a pizza or do something as a family so the kids see that everyone still gets along. Another idea is to create a joint email from both of you to your friends saying that their friendship means a lot and that you feel you will be better parents apart. This may be especially helpful for those kids who may want to talk about this with friends. And, you also just squashed any potential gossip by making it a proactive message. We love that.
And if things go off script, that’s OK. Just stick to the right overall message that we are OK, we both love you, and we’ve got this.
Through the process of our own divorces, Barb Hazelton and Jo Briggs learned more than they ever needed or wanted to know. Through their friendship, shared experiences, and connections through navigating their own divorces, they created this video series. They've been where you are and they hope Single Process can make it easier for you by connecting you to their resources.