So you’ve decided, and there’s no turning back. You’re filing for divorce. But what about the kids?! They’ve been doing so well in school this year, are making new friends that live nearby, and they’re so little and innocent!
All of that is true. As someone who’s worked with parents and little ones through divorce and custody issues, I can tell you they’ll be alright. Kids are incredibly resilient.
You need to let them know mommy and daddy won’t be living together anymore. Oh yes, it’s terrible to even think about, one of the hardest thing’s you’ll ever have to do, and sometimes parents find themselves in this position. Life happens.
I’m here to break down how to prepare for this talk in eight straightforward steps, and the next part of this blog will walk you through actually doing it.
1. Ask yourself…how am I feeling about the talk?
Acknowledge what you're feeling. Put a word to whatever that may be and let it happen. No one ever said a divorce would be easy. Don’t fight the flood of mixed emotions…observe it.
2. Know this…it's normal to feel nervous and guilty.
Most parents feel sick to their stomach and wish they could avoid telling their kids about their divorce altogether. Sometimes you may question going through with it!
A deep sadness may set-in when you think about what your kids’ faces may look like when you tell them what’s happening.
That’s ALL normal. It's ok. It's going to be ok. This too shall pass.
3. Write it out. Journal your thoughts and feelings.
Maybe this is the time to set aside an afternoon to head to Barnes and Noble, grab a latte at Starbucks or juice nearby, and take your time picking out a pretty little journal. They have a million options.
If this doesn’t sound like you, grab a receipt or field trip flyer and scribble down whatever comes to your mind when you need it most.
Journaling can become a nightly ritual through the process of your divorce. OR if you’re not wanting to add anything else to the endless “to-do” list, it can picked up and put down on your own terms.
4. Talk it out. Discuss the talk with friends and family.
Let others know you aren’t necessarily looking for advise or feedback, but could use a listening ear, a nod here and there, and probably a long hug.
You may need to squeeze in happy hour or a lunch date with your best friend, mom, or sibling (in a secluded spot just in case you cry). Tell them all about this big talk. Let it out and take note of what responses were most helpful for you.
Consider involving your soon to be ex (if possible) in preparing for and having this talk with the kids. This is the first of many difficult things you’ll have to do in co-parenting with him/her.
5. Plan it out. Practice. Pick a day and time to talk.
Maybe it’s a day at the park where you pack a little picnic to share and talk with the kids. Perhaps you know your kids will take it hard and you need to be home on a weekend where it won’t interfere with school, sports, or birthday parties.
Commit to that day in time. Waiting or putting it off only makes it harder for everyone! It needs to happen, and you’re modeling for your kids how to talk about things with the people you love when it’s hard.
6. Prepare…Imagine the worst and best case responses.
Consider all the possible outcomes. Your kids may say “ok” and leave the room. They may get angry. Would your little one lecture you, comment about the fighting and sleeping in the guest room? Maybe they have a million questions or want to avoid talking about it at all costs. Sometimes kids get silly to distract or try to make you feel better.
Coping with the divorce is a process for them just like it is for you already. Be prepared to roll with whatever their reaction is.
7. Practice coping.
Practice strategies that will help you stay calm and focused on your kids, whether that means breathing, sipping a cup of tea, squeezing your hands together, or repeating in your head “they’re gonna be ok.”
8. Breathe. Cry. This is hard. Take care of yourself!
Your kids learn how to deal with life’s challenges by watching you do it. So take good care of yourself! It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. You matter and your kids need you to be as happy and healthy as you can be during this time.
What they say is so true… “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
People WILL judge you for the day at the spa or new cycling membership. Hell, you’ll be judged for doing the same things you do every day when you’re going through a divorce. It’s totally unfair, and it’s going to happen. Ignore it all. Find someone who gets what you’re going through and call them when you’re feeling like an awful person or a failure.
Scroll through those eight steps again.
I hope reading this helps you feel a little less overwhelmed. It helps to start taking these little steps.
When you're ready, put on your big girl/boy pants and read on to the second part of this blog.
I will explain how to actually have this talk with your young children.