Thinking about how to tell your kids about the divorce? That is perhaps the most heartbreaking and difficult aspect of a divorce. As parents, we are all so protective of our children, both physically and emotionally, and the last thing a parent wants to do is deliver news about divorce to the children that will cause unavoidable fear, hurt and sadness.
Every child reacts differently to hearing from his or her parents that mommy and daddy are getting divorced. Some kids cry, some bottle it up and pretend to be OK, some kids get angry and act out at home or school, some regress emotionally, and some do and say things completely out of character. It’s a very unsettling time for both children and their parents.
Just like adults, kids are fearful of the unknown, and that they feel the anxiety of the divorce, specifically of having to juggle two homes, having two single parents, being “different” from other kids, and feeling unsure that both parents are going to be there for them in the future just like they are now.
The good news is, once both parents are settled in their new homes and lives, the kids tend to be relieved and even happier than they were at the end of their parents marriage, because they no longer have to bear the burden of the underlying tension, arguments and the coldness they saw in their mom and dad towards one another. It’s the time when healing and adapting to the new normal can begin. But until that time, it’s extremely difficult to watch your kids in pain.
So, how do you tell your kids about the divorce?
Here are 17 things you can say to your kids in the hours, days and weeks after you and your soon-to-be-ex tell them about your divorce:
1. There are going to be lots of changes, but here is what won’t change. My love for you and your mom’s (or dad’s) love for you. Both are constant and ever lasting.
2. This must be really, really scary for you. I get it. But you won’t feel this way for very long.
3. I’m here for you, whatever you need from me.
4. I will talk to you and listen to you for as long as you need.
5. I will hug you as much as you want.
6. I will pray with you.
7. I’ve got you.
8. Every kid knows kids who have divorced parents. They aren’t going to be as surprised as you think they are, because you aren’t their first friend to tell them your parents are getting divorced.
9. We are still a family filled with love. That will never change.
10. You are special and you mean everything to me. I feel such gratitude that I’m your mom (or dad.)
11. If you are angry, that’s OK. But get it out. Tell someone. I can be that person if you want. You can yell and scream and hit something if you need to.
12. It’s OK to cry. It’s a good thing, actually, even for boys.
13. You can ask me a million questions, even the same ones over and over again and I will answer you.
14. If you heard me on the phone with someone or you saw me crying, ask me about it. I will be honest with you.
15. I will always love mom (or dad’s) family because they will always be your family and they love you so much.
16. Things are going to be sad for a little while and then down the road, they won’t be anymore.
17. The best thing I ever did was have you.
I’m not saying that these are the end-all and the answers to your problems. I just feel like I know how kids of divorce think, and I know that if I were a kid, these are things that would comfort and soothe me tremendously. Of course, in addition to comforting kids with words, countless hugs and kisses are good too.