SAN DIEGO, January 30, 2014 – Once two people have made the tough decision to go through with a divorce, they face perhaps the hardest part of the situation: what to tell their children about the divorce.
Your divorce may come as a complete surprise to your children, but it’s far more likely the kids will not be surprised. You may think you have hidden the discord between you, or even kept fights behind closed doors. In my experience as a family law attorney, your kids are extremely attuned to your emotional state and intuitive about family matters. They may expect it.
In any divorce where there are minor children, the children are the true victims. Depending on how the divorcing parents are handling the situation, enormous psychological damage can be done that lasts far beyond the actual time period when the divorce is taking place.
Even when children are young at the time of the divorce, they will grow up and have questions about what happened. No matter how two people feel about each other, they will always be a child’s mom and dad.
Here are my eight tips to help you determine when and what to tell your kids about your divorce:
1. Choose a time when everyone is calm and can devote enough time to talk.
2. If possible, both parents should be present to tell the children.
3. Try to take turns speaking and explaining, and avoid the blame game.
4. If possible explain in age appropriate language what will happen (such as living arrangements) and focus on how it will affect the children’s lives.
5. Take time to reassure the kids that the divorce is not their fault and you both love them.
6. Allow enough time for the children to ask questions and try to answer them as truthfully as possible without ugly details.
7. Reassure that it’s ok to feel angry, sad or scared and that feelings are normal.
8. Let your kids continue the conversation about how they feel into the future and better yet get them a therapist to help them deal with the feelings they may not want to express to either parent.
Use these tips to discuss ahead of time how you will both present the situation to your kids. Agree on your version of events so that you don’t contradict each other. Now is the time to remember what your grandma used to tell you: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Focus as much as possible on what is happening to your children, not you. If you do, you will do what’s best for them.
Despite the conflicts between you that lead to the decision divorce, coming to an agreement outside the court system is best for everyone involved. Collaborative divorce, private mediation, or confidential judicial arbitration are all good options and absolutely the way to go. This allows you to handle your legal issues as swiftly as possible with less cost and emotional anguish.
I urge clients not to sweat the small stuff, make it as quick and clean as possible. This advice applies as long as there is no abuse or dangerous behavior involved in the marriage.
Everyone going through a divorce hurts. Everyone has the same fears. Everyone worries about being treated fairly. But if you put your children first, and attend to their long term needs first, things will fall into place for you as well. From there, you can see yourself and your family through to a healthier, happier future.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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