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Telling Your Children You’re Divorcing

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Divorce Lawyer's Take on This All-Important Conversation

Children often are the most vulnerable parties during a divorce. Parents who decide to end their marriage are typically required to work out a custody agreement and divide financial responsibilities for the childcare at the time of the divorce. Child custody and welfare issues are typically very emotionally charged, and parents may become deeply entrenched in a battle against each other that may ultimately have an adverse effect on the children. While most divorces are not easy, the following suggestions could help reduce the stress children may feel when they learn their parents are divorcing.

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Deliver the news simultaneously

Parents often believe they should tell the older children about the divorce while withholding the information from the younger children for as long as possible. However, doing so may be more taxing than helpful. The older children may be more inclined to feel burdened by the responsibility of keeping such a heavy secret. Younger children may interpret the family's secrecy as an indication that they are unable to effectively handle life's serious problems.

End the marriage quickly after telling the kids

Divorces can drag on for several months or even years, which can be especially difficult for children. Therefore, parents should be certain that they are ready to end the marriage quickly before telling the kids. Working together peacefully to iron out potentially contested issues can expedite the process. Parents should consult an experienced Coral Springs divorce attorney for additional guidance on how to end their marriage with as few delays as possible.

Plan ahead

Most children will remember the moment they learned about their parents' intent to divorce long into their adulthood. Therefore, parents should not take the way in which they break the news lightly. Spouses may wish to write down what they intend to say and set ground rules in the interest of avoiding upsetting the children unnecessarily. Not fighting and avoiding pressuring the children to choose sides are basic ground rules that should be included in the plan. Parents who cannot come together to have the conversation with their children simultaneously may opt to schedule separate conversations with the children; however, each parent must follow the same ground rules.

Don't assume a child's reaction

Children who are aware of hostility between their parents may respond to news of a divorce positively if they are eager to have a peaceful home environment. Others may react with sadness if they do not want their daily home life to change. Many children react with a mixture of positive and negative feelings. Children are naturally inquisitive and can especially be expected to have questions during a life-altering process like divorce. Therefore, parents should avoid making assumptions and simply listen, allow the child to communicate his or her reaction honestly, and provide answers to the best of their ability.

Don't assign blame

Parents should exercise maturity and both accept their role in the decision to divorce when explaining to children. Doing so makes children less likely to blame themselves for the divorce. Parents also appear to be on more of a united front in their approach to parenting when they are able to discuss the changes the family will be experiencing together.

Divorce is typically not a fast process; therefore, parents should anticipate having multiple follow-up conversations with their children in addition to spending more time with them. From a legal standpoint, retaining an experienced divorce lawyer can also help ease the transition, as the attorney can help facilitate communications between both sides and the court.

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