When you and your spouse decide to divorce, one of the most difficult things you have to do is inform your children. They will need time to adjust to the information, and helping them cope is often a process. You can set the tone for the rest of the process by approaching the initial discussion together, keeping it calm and communicating clearly.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you may have to adapt your rhetorical approach to the initial discussion based on your children’s ages and levels of understanding. Nevertheless, regardless of the ages of your children, there are two points that you have to make explicitly and consistently.
The divorce is not your children’s fault
Children may get this idea if one of the points of contention between you and your spouse was childrearing issues. However, some children internalize guilt or responsibility for the divorce even if there was no childrearing conflict. Therefore, it is crucial that children hear from their parents that the divorce is not their fault and there is nothing they can do to change it.
Your children are safe and loved
Divorce represents a threat to children’s sense of safety and security. They may worry about changes in living arrangements, money matters and retaining the love of both parents. Communicate honestly and clearly with your children about what changes the divorce means for your family. Reassure them about the things that will not change, e.g., that both of their parents still love them no matter what and that they will continue to have a relationship with both of you.