One of the most difficult conversations any parent could ever have is talking to their children about their pending divorce. I know first-hand because, many years ago, I went through the experience. I fought and faced the overwhelming emotions. The deep gut-wrenching fear. The continuous anxiety. The incredible guilt. And the oppressive weight of shame.
My son, after all, was innocent. A sweet, gentle soul who loved his father and mother dearly. He certainly did not deserve this.
I struggled with the anxiety for weeks in advance. When should I tell him? How should I tell him? Should we tell him together? And most frightening of all, what should we say?
How do you explain to a child that the life he has known, the comfort he has felt in his family setting, is about to be disrupted – changed – forever? How do you explain to a child that none of this is his fault, that that life will go on, that he will be safe, cared for and loved, even after his parents divorce?
And, even more intimidating, how do you prepare him for all the unknowns looming ahead when you’re not sure yourself how it will all turn out?
I needed a plan. A strategy. A way of conveying all that I wanted to say in a way that he could grasp.
Thankfully I found that plan. I came up with a storybook that told my son, in words and pictures, the story of how his father and I met, married and started a family. It explained problems we encountered that we
could not readily fix, and the decision we ultimately made to get a divorce.
There are five key messages that are essential for every child of divorcing parents to hear, understand, and absorb. By sharing and repeating these five points to your children in the weeks and months following the
initial conversation, you will enable them to better handle, accept, and possibly even embrace the challenges and changes they will soon be facing.
1) This is not your fault.
Mom and Dad have been having problems. We don’t agree about certain key issues and that creates conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, that does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child who we both love and cherish. We are not fighting about YOU. We are disagreeing with each other about issues that concern you and our family. But you are not in any way at fault.
2) Mom and Dad will always be your parents.
No matter what changes occur, one thing is for certain: Mom and Dad will always be your parents. No one else will ever be your real Mom. No one else will ever be your real Dad. We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things change.