My friend, Lisa, is one of the most formidable women I know. She is an extremely successful executive. She also happens to be a gorgeous, former 4H queen whose end of summer ritual is canning her own tomatoes in the company of her Mom and two small daughters. Lisa is one of those rare beings who seems to effortlessly know the rules and expectations of any situation from the moment she walks in a room.
But she had a secret that none of us knew about. Lisa happened to be in a very unhappy marriage. My unflappable friend was stumped by the prospect of divorce – not the money, not telling her friends and family. What kept her up at night was what in the world to tell her kids.
When she finally opened up to me, I connected her to some of the talented child development experts that the attorneys in my office work with regularly. We worked through recommendations based on our collective experience of what works best for divorcing families.
Here’s what she found out:
1. Do have a script to get the conversation started.
Ex. “Our family is changing. Daddy and I are going to start living apart, in two homes. We both love you so much. You will live with me some of the time and Daddy some of the time.”
2. Do tell the kids at home. Don’t try and explain it at your kid’s favorite park or restaurant. Do consider the time of day because your kiddo may be upset.
3. Do answer their questions in an age-appropriate and direct way.
4. Do tell your kids that you’ll take them to see the place you picked.
5. Do tell them that in an age-appropriate way, how you feel.
Ex. “I feel really sad. It’s okay to be sad. I may cry sometimes. I will take care of myself AND I will take care of you.
6. Do give them some language about how they might feel.
Ex. It’s okay if you feel sad, sometime. It’s okay to mad. We’ll get through this.”
7. Do sleep in the same home on the day you tell the kids. Move out 6 to 10 days after you tell them so that they don’t feel abandoned.
And, here’s the advice I could lend my friend:
Do remember that you are braver than you believe. And, don’t forget, your kids believe in you more than you can remember right now.
For a consultation regarding how to speak with your children about divorce, please call Monica Cary, partner at DuBois Cary: (206) 547-1486. We have offices in both Seattle and Bellevue to best serve you.