As a parent it is hard to know how to break the news to the children that you’re going to get a divorce. The decision hasn’t been made lightly. In the background, parents can be working through their marital issues until they conclude it is not repairable or one parent can feel quite blindsided themselves when the other parent declares they are leaving. Together parents generally want to try to protect the children from the gritty detail trying to shield the children from the cause of the family breakdown.
Some kids have seen their parents relationship be very toxic which is very traumatic to live in those conditions with parents fighting all the time so when the parents finally split it can sometimes be a relief to the children that their lives can now be more calm and peaceful as they don’t feel like they are walking through a land mine anymore tentatively anticipating an explosion at any moment.
So do you tell them you’re getting a Divorce and what the new living arrangements will be without their input or do you just tell them you’re getting divorced and let them digest the information to come back later as a family to discuss a workable solution together. Adolescent children are old enough to be provide input on their needs, how they feel, and what they see as a workable solution BUT would they be left in a state of uncertainty not knowing what was going to happen or plead for the parents to stay together which could be more traumatic for them.
Do adolescent kids want to be part of the decision making on the family breakdown or could they feel pressure on perceiving the responsibility is being transferred to them rather than the parents taking ownership of the outcome since they made the decision to split in the first place. Having the children as part of the decision making may make them feel they need to pick sides putting them in a very difficult position as so many kids just want to be with both their parents.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) confirm talking to children about divorce is difficult but they offer the following tips to help both the child and parents with the challenge and stress of these conversations:
Do not keep it a secret or wait until the last minute.
Tell your child together with your spouse if possible.
Keep things simple and straight-forward and don't share more information than your child is asking for.
Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
Do not discuss each other's faults or problems with the child.