You’re getting a divorce, and you both agree it is for the best. There’s just one problem. How do you tell the little guy who is fast asleep upstairs? The little guy who only this morning drew a beautiful picture of the three of you and pinned it to the refrigerator.
There is no easy way to break the news of divorce to a child. Even older ones, who know things have been difficult, do not expect it to happen to them, and divorce is something that happens to them, not just you.
Yes, you and your spouse are the ones divorcing, but it is also your kid’s life that is about to change significantly. A good co-parenting plan can help your child transition to new ways of doing things. Part of the transition also involves the difficult task of breaking the news to the kids.
Kids want to know how divorce will affect them
When your child asks “why?” they do not want an explanation of how you found text messages between your spouse and someone else. Or how you feel like your spouse never listens to you or contributes their share around the house. When your child asks “why?” they mean, why is this happening to me?
Your child’s life may not be perfect, yet there is plenty they like about it. For example, they get to see you every day, get a bedtime story, see their friends at school and get to cuddle their cat when they are feeling sad. You can help them by explaining what will not change, what they will still get to do, rather than only focusing on what will change. For instance:
- You will still get a bedtime story, but now we will take turns to tell it
- You will still go to the same school, but you might need to get a different bus if we move
- You still get to cuddle the cat if you are sad, but you might have to wait a few days if the cat is in the other house
It is unlikely you know all the details yet. As you find out more, you can tell your child more. Remember that children will place more value on what they see than what you say. If they see you can still have a civil conversation as parents, they are more likely to accept that divorce will be OK. If you tell them it will be fine, but they see you at each other’s throats, they may not believe you.