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Preparing children for an upcoming divorce

Marriages end and couples split up in Maryland for any number of reasons. Some former spouses wish to cut their ex out of their life for good, but that isn't a viable or reasonable option for those who share children from the marriage. No matter the dynamic between the parents, the interests of children have to come first.

When it comes time to tell children about an impending divorce, parents would do well to take some time to prepare for this conversation before diving in. Each family unit is unique, so no one plan will work for every situation. That said, consider some useful, general tips for breaking the news of a divorce to the children in an effective, compassionate manner.

Determine your key message

Think ahead about how you want to begin and carry out the discussion about a divorce. What do you need to say in this conversation? What's the main takeaway you want a child to remember? Telling children about a divorce is often a memorable experience, meaning your children may replay this moment for years to come. What you say in this conversation as well as how you say it can have a lasting effect.

Expect a reaction

You can only prepare for your part in the conversation. Each person reacts differently to major news, so children may exhibit any number of responses to the news of an upcoming divorce. Some may feel anger, confusion and sadness while others feel relief and happiness. Their reaction and response is under their control, not yours.

The role of a parent in this situation is simply to accept the reaction and attempt to facilitate the conversation from there. Prepare to answer questions, provide reassurance and remain open and honest throughout the discussion. It's important to consider the child's point-of-view and try to accommodate as best as possible.

Provide consistency after the fact

Children benefit from consistency and routine in the wake of major life changes. When it's safe and possible to do so, child psychologists and other parents have shown it's beneficial to keep a family close together even while separated and divorced.

No two families are identical, so no one's experience can provide an exact roadmap for others. Consider first and foremost the safety and wellbeing of children and yourself in determining a routine after a split. Co-parents can do well to plan ahead for shared parenting duties and implement this plan as soon as a separation begins.

Parents don't have to go about this experience alone. Consider the many resources available from child development experts to family law specialists to family counselors. It can take time and care to prepare for telling children about a divorce, but parents and children can all benefit from this level of planning before the fact.

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