For many divorcing parents in Alaska and around the country, having “the talk” with their children is the step in the process they dread the most. Parents know that divorce can be psychologically traumatizing for young children, but they also realize that remaining in an unfulfilling relationship fraught with bickering and arguments could cause them even more emotional harm. So, how should parents approach this delicate and unenviable task?
Your children may not be surprised
Divorces rarely occur out of the blue. In most cases, parents choose to separate after months or even years of unhappiness. Young children are remarkably prescient, and they often know what is coming as soon as their parents tell them that they need to talk. Almost half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, which means most school-age children have at least one friend with divorced parents. Your children may have discussed their home situation with this friend, and they could actually be relieved that you are doing something that has seemed inevitable for some time.
Timing is everything
It is best to tell children about a divorce before a parent leaves the family home, but not too long before. If life seems to be going on as normal after their parents have broached the subject of divorce, children may feel that the marriage can be saved and take steps to try to save it. This can add an unnecessary complication to an already difficult situation. It is best to have these conversations about a week before a parent leaves the home for good, and they should take place when both parents can devote time to reassuring their children and answering their questions.
Not their fault
Telling children about a divorce is never easy, but it is something that has to be done sooner or later. It is best to approach this conversation with a plan in mind, and the most important thing to convey to children is that nothing is their fault. When you have this talk with your children, avoid talking about the reasons you are ending your marriage. Instead, try to put on a united front and accept that your children could respond with anger, withdrawal or relief. This conversation is the first step in a long process for your children, so concentrate on softening the blow and reassuring them.