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Divorce and Separation


How Much Should You Tell Your Child About Your Divorce?
By Susie and Otto Collins

Patricia and Scott have decided to get a divorce. After 13 years of marriage, this was a gut-wrenching decision to make. But after several years of tension, bickering and an affair, they both knew it was time to split up.

They are partly getting a divorce for their 3 children.

This might sound odd to others, but, to Patricia and Scott, trying to pretend that everything is okay in their marriage in front of the kids was draining for them both-- and it didn't seem to work anyway.

Now, these loving parents are trying to find the best way to talk with their kids-- who are ages 11, 8 and 6 years old-- about the divorce and upcoming changes for them all.

If you are getting a divorce, you might be struggling with some of the same questions that Patricia and Scott have?

  • How much should I shield them from what has happened?

  • Do I tell them that my partner (or I) had an affair?

  • Should I be honest about my fears for our future (regarding finances, scheduling or other issues)?

  • How much choice should we give our children about which of us they will live with?

  • Is it okay for me to keep secrets from my children about what's really going on?

  • How open should I be with them about my intense feelings?


No parent going through a divorce wants to burden his or her children with more than they can handle.

At the same time, particularly if you are living with your kids, you might find it exhausting to keep secrets and always put on a "happy face" for their
supposed benefit.

Focus on the needs of your children.
First and foremost, pay attention to what your children need.

This can be tricky, because parents have a bad habit of assuming that they always know what their children's needs are.

Take the time to really tune in to the questions and comments that come from your kids' mouths.

You can also look at their behaviors for additional clues about what they need right now. Are they acting out or withdrawing? These might tip you off that some action or intervention from you is called
for.

It's always a good idea to directly ask your children what it is that they need.

Listen in an engaged way and be sure to ask follow up questions and then create a plan so that this need can be met either by you or another person.

How much is too much (or too little)information?
Age is not always the best way to determine how open and honest you should be with your child about the divorce. Be realistic about the maturity level and particular sensitivities and fears of each of your
children.

We don't recommend that you ever lie to your kids. They will undoubtedly find out the truth at some point and then feel betrayed.

Don't damage their trust in you through this experience.

You can be honest about the divorce and what will happen in terms of living arrangements without sharing the most painful details of what happened.

This is your call to make.

Patricia and Scott chose to sit down with each of their children individually on the same evening to tell them about the divorce.

In advance, they agreed about what specific information to share with each child. They also agreed to answer all questions.

Above all, Patricia and Scott promised one another that they would not use this discussion-- or those that happen in the coming days and months-- as a way to pit their children against one parent or the
other.

Their priority was to help each of their children understand and be informed of what was going to happen and, most importantly, that they would continue to be loved and cared for by both of their parents.

Make sure that your own need for support is being met.
It's also vital that you gather a support team of people and resources around yourself. Don't rely on any of your kids (no matter how mature he or she is) as a sounding board, advisor or shoulder to cry upon.

Instead, make a list of every single person that you know to whom you could turn when you need support.

Be varied in your list of people. There might be some you might turn to for advice, others to listen to you blow off steam and others who can help care for your
children when you need that.

Divorce is rarely easy or without emotional pain. This is true for the adults involved as well as the children.

Whether it's in partnership with your soon-to-be ex or by yourself, you can talk with your kids about divorce and upcoming changes from a place of love, respect, assurance and honesty.

Your deliberate decision to do so can make a huge positive difference.


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Contact Info
Relationship Coaches Susie and Otto Collins, PO Box 14544, Columbus, OH 43214
Contact Susie or Otto about Relationship Coaching by calling (614) 568-8282.
For all other inquiries, contact us by email.

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