The “D” word: Telling the kids you're getting a divorce
The hardest part of a divorce can often be telling your children about it. Seek the help of family, friends and experts
It is always difficult to break bad news to children. And how to tell kids about divorce is especially difficult, no matter what their ages. Children can feel as if their world has been turned upside down. How they react to this can vary depending on how you separate from your partner, what your child’s age and awareness is, and how much support they get from their family and friends.
How to Tell Kids About DivorceStep One: Prepare Yourself
Before anything, when it comes to how to tell kids about divorce, you need to prepare yourself. Think about the following while putting your child’s needs first:
- How do you intend to tell the child about the intended divorce?
- How do you think your child will react?
- When is a good time to break the news to your child?
- Should you speak to your child alone or should both parents be involved in breaking the news?
Step Two: Discuss with Your Spouse
Have a discussion with your spouse. Ask for his/her opinion on how you would like to tell your child. Though it can be difficult, try to work out a proposed parenting plan and how both of you intend to break the news.
Remember to put your child’s welfare at the heart of your decision making. You might be sick and tired of your spouse, but you will be co-parenting after the divorce. If at this this stage there is a communication breakdown, you might want to seek advice from an experienced divorce lawyer who specialises in high-conflict custody disputes.
Some of the factors you will both face are:
- Who the child is closer to?
- Where will the child live?
- Is the child facing any other problems (academic or otherwise)?
- What is the age and maturity level of the child?
- What is the child’s personality?
Read More: Divorce Process in Singapore
Step Three: Breaking the News
In an ideal situation, both you and your spouse should sit down and have a conversation with your child together. Some ways of breaking the news to a child are as follows:
- Daddy and Mummy are going to live apart because we are having some difficulties between ourselves. But we still love you and we want you.
- Daddy and Mummy do not want our arguments to affect you, so we will not be staying together. But we still love you and we want you.
- Daddy/Mummy (if one spouse is moving out) will visit you, so do not worry that I do not want you.
- Daddy and Mummy are facing some difficult issues between us and we are going to live apart, but nothing will change in your life. We still love you. You will still be attending classes as usual.
- There are some issues between Daddy and Mummy, and it is not your fault. We are so thankful we have you every day.
Remember to keep your cool as your child’s welfare is at the heart of the matter.
Step Four: In Case of Conflict
In the not-so-ideal situation where your spouse refuses to cooperate on how to tell your child about the divorce:
- Engage the help of your family members and the spouse’s family members about it.
- Make it clear to your spouse that you are concerned about your child’s welfare.
- Assess your situation by seeking advice from a divorce lawyer.
In such a situation, you might have to break the news to your child on your own.
Step Five: When Your Child Reacts Negatively
There is a very real chance that your child will not take the news well, lashing out, or becoming sad or depressed. How do you handle the situation when your child reacts adversely?
- Listen to what your child has to say. Do not interrupt.
- Tell your child that both parents still love and want him/her.
- Be patient and allow your child to express his/her feelings.
- Be aware of how the child behaves after you tell him/her about the news.
- Tell the teachers at your child’s school about the divorce and ask to be updated on your child’s performance and behaviour in school.
Some Last Words
Where acrimony is high between spouses, it is easy for both parties to let feelings get the better of them. Just remember to put the child’s welfare at the heart of the matter and to avoid using the child as a pawn.
When in doubt, seek an opinion from a Specialist Divorce Lawyer.