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Children: The Conversation you won’t want to have

Children: The Conversation you won’t want to have
Written by
Kirsten Gronning

There will come a time when you need to tell the children what is happening, if you haven't already done so.

Consider these 10 most important things before you do so: 

  • How have you assured the children that you are always there for their questions and to talk?

  • Will telling them half-truths produce confusion and distrust? Might the truth, however painful, engender trust and security for your children?

  • What else can you do to make sure they are kept in the picture?

  • Does the fact that living arrangements are tentative make it impossible to discuss with the children? Are they tentative but real and do-able? Might you say you will keep them posted as and when the plans have been worked out?

  • How might you take it a step at a time and both keep them informed gradually, providing consistent information even if you are talking to them separately?

  • Have you both told the children as soon as possible what is going on and have you both been honest and said how you feel?

  • How will you best explain the reasons for the breakdown, eg. that you have not got on well for some time; you were once happy but we have now grown apart; you have tried to patch it up etc?

  • How can you tell them together?

  • How can you make and agree a plan and a timeframe?

  • How clear have the signs been to your children that the marriage is over?   How old are the children? How much should they know and how much decision making can they be involved in?

Their reactions on being told of the marital breakdown may surprise you. They may have already been aware of it and be relieved that they are put in the picture even if it is an uncertain one. They may take it nonchalantly, changing the subject so that you wonder if they heard you at all. You may have to tell them a few times, especially if they do not want to hear your message.

Limiting the Emotional Damage

By asking yourself these 8 questions and answering them you will be ensuring you are limiting the emotional damage:

  1. How have we reassured the children they will be safe and cared for?

  2. How far can we both maintain the children's daily routine?

  3. How can we reassure the children they will be able to cope with the changes?

  4. How can we make sure we are reassuring the children: that we will be happier if we live separately; that it is not their fault?

  5. How do they know they are loved by us both very much: that because we don't want to live together as parents any more does not mean that we don't want to live with them?

  6. What are we doing that reassures them that the divorce will not affect our feelings for them: that we   will always be their parents?

  7. What about the importance of family? Do they know that the family will always be their family even if   we don't always live in the same house?

  8. How can we help a child who is hiding their feelings about the break-up? Might it be helpful to ask the child to share their thoughts with us?

Divorce will always be a part of them and their history, but it need not be a sad or bitter part if both parents can work together to put the children's interests at the heart of any discussion about their future.

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