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C. Eric Schmidt - Attorney at Law

Marilyn Gale Vilyus - Attorney at Law

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How To Tell the Kids You Are Getting a Divorce

By:  Marilyn G. Vilyus

Telling the kids that you are getting a divorce is one of the hardest parts of the divorce process!

Although it is normal to want to spare your kids from dealing with this news, it is actually more helpful to them to tell them as soon as you can after making the decision.  You don’t want them to hear about it from someone else, to overhear you and your spouse talking to each other, or to overhear you talking to a friend or other family member.

If possible, both parents should talk to the kids together.  If you have several kids, explain what is happening on the level of the youngest child!  By having a family meeting, your kids can offer support to each other.

Let them know that both of you will be happy to talk to them individually.  They will probably have a lot of questions.  Usually, kids are most concerned with how the divorce will directly affect them.  They want to know where they will live; whether they will have to change schools; which parent they will live with; how often will they see the other parent, etc.  They may ask you if you are going to have enough money!!!!!

Make sure to be clear that the divorce is not their fault!!!!  Also, please remember that it is your job to be a comfort to your kids.  It is not their job to console you!!!

Although it is important to give your kids as much of a reason as you can for why you are separating, it is critical that neither parent starts a “blame game.”  While your kids might sympathize with the complaining parent for awhile, resentment usually sets in after a while when one parent demonizes the other!  The kids start to question whether the abandoned parent drove the other parent away and their relationship with both parents is harmed at the very time they need love from both mom and dad the most!

Reassure your kids that they are not being abandoned!  In those cases where one of the parents has actually “abandoned” the family, the challenge is higher to keep an even keel.  Remembering that the emotional stability of the kids is the most important thing will help you stay strong and keep you on the “high road!”

Tell them that their mom and dad will always be their mom and dad –- no matter what!  No matter how carefully you break the news, you can expect your kids to experience a broad range of emotions.  Although you may feel that you just don’t feel up to dealing with these challenges, you really don’t have a choice!!!!   This is the time to ask for help from friends and family.  Your spiritual advisor or a family counselor can help as well!

It’s important for kids to know that they can –- and should –- continue to love both their mom and their dad!  They often will cling to the belief that you will get back together.  Make certain that you allow them to express their feelings to you, but don’t fall into the trap of making false promises or give them false hopes.

Try to do your very best to keep them from hearing your arguments.  Don’t rip your spouse to shreds in their presence –- this only makes things more difficult for them.  Remember that kids will often blame one parent or the other on their own –- will often blame both parents -– and, unfortunately, frequently blame themselves!  There will inevitably be times they feel abandoned and rejected no matter how hard you try to handle their feelings with compassion and deep care.

Constantly reminding the kids that the divorce is not their fault and that both mom and dad will always love them will go a long way in helping them to adjust to the new family arrangement and allow the healing process to begin.   Although you will no longer all be living together, let them know that both parents will always be their family!

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