When It Comes to Talking to Your Kids about Divorce, How Much is Too Much?
September 22, 2015
You may have heard the saying, “In the Best Interests of the Child.” That’s the general principle used by family courts to decide complicated custody issues. For example, if you and your soon-to-be ex both want full custody, or one of you wants to move out of state, or you disagree about extended family issues, a family court judge will ultimately have to determine what is in your child’s best interests.
The concept can be applied to how much you and your spouse/ex communicate to your children about your breakup. Of course, if you have adult children, you need to be having a different discussion with them about the decisions you are making. You aren’t discussing where they are going to live, necessarily, and depending on their age, they may be supporting themselves. However, regardless of age, your divorce will impact them. Therefore, you still need to be sensitive to the way you present the information.
Don’t bad-talk the other parent: You may have a lot to say. A lot. This is one of those “keep your mouth shut” times when your animosity against your ex is not going to help anyone – especially your children.
Together, with your spouse/ex, decide how you will present information to the kids. Will you do it together or separately? Which details will you share? For example, if one of you has had an affair, that’s probably not something your children need to know. You need to present a united front to the kids. Be clear and be consistent with your messaging. Avoid trash-talking at all costs.
Reassurance to let children know everything will be alright is a must. Children should not feel that their parents are going to fight over them, because undoubtedly the children will blame themselves for the breakup or for their parents fighting.
Be ready for their questions: When you tell your children you are getting divorced, there are myriad ways they may react. One thing you can count on is questions. You may not hear them immediately. But, as some point, the kids will want to know “why.” They will ask if they did something wrong. They will want to know if there is any chance you will get back together. They will want to know where they are going to live.
Recognize that their world is shifting dramatically. Be patient, kind and calm. Make sure you reassure they that the divorce has nothing to do with them but that you do realize they are being affected by it. Share as much information as you can to reassure them. You may want to speak with a counselor for advice.
Whatever you do, don’t bring up topics that are still under consideration with lawyers and the court. And, don’t put your children in the middle of your arguments.
Don’t try to do this alone. A savvy family law mediator who has considerable experience helping divorcing couples make decisions regarding children can be an excellent and important resource. Contact Jonathan Katz today for a consultation about your personal situation.