“What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.”
You are a divorced mom. I found that title carried a significantly different weight than simply being a divorced woman. Mom is the most important title I hold – the most important job I can have – and doing it “right” (or as close to right as possible) is important to me. I don’t like to see my kids hurt. I don’t like to see them cry. I pray that I raise them in such a way that they grow up to be responsible, confident, joyful adults who give back to the world and make a positive difference in the lives of others.
I look around my neighborhood, my circle of friends, my kid’s sports teams, and it’s hard to miss finding someone who is in the midst of a separation or divorce. I wonder, what impact is this having on our children?
Studies have shown it's not the divorce itself that negatively affects children, but rather the parents fighting that takes place before, during and after the divorce. It’s the parents’ inability to successfully co-parent and “share” the children successfully.
If you believe in this concept, then you know the importance of being a good role model for your children. If you are facing a divorce, trust me, telling the kids will be one of the hardest things you ever have to do. Ever. This was hands down the worst day of my life. Hopefully this advice will help you to be the role-model which your children deserve.
How to Tell Your Children:
Talk with your spouse before you tell the kids about the divorce. For the sake of your children, put aside the hurt and anger you may be feeling, so that you can make decisions together about the details you will need to tell your children.
Deliver the message jointly to the kids. This sends an important message to your kids that you are both capable of working together for their benefit and that you will both continue to be their parents in the future.
Remain calm and avoid blaming, yelling or getting angry at the other. Kids hate to see their parents fight in normal situations, let alone when this kind of news is being shared. The manner in which you present this news to your kids will affect the degree of their anxiety.
Provide general reasons for what is happening. It is often not important, nor even appropriate, to share the details of why the divorce is occurring. Instead, provide a high-level message that is age appropriate.
Be prepared to provide specific details about the changes your kids can expect. You won’t necessarily have all the answers, but try to have as many answers as possible to give a sense of competence and confidence. Unanswered questions simply cause more chaos and stress.
Reassure the children of your unconditional love … over and over and over. Children need reassurance that the divorce is not their fault. They need to hear that nothing they did could have caused, nor prevented, what was happening.
Give your kids time to adjust to the news. Don’t expect your kids to “get over this” quickly. Give them time to deal with this. This is a huge change. Be patient with their needs and make the effort to be a steady presence in their lives.
Whether you wanted it, or not, you have a new title: divorced-mom. Telling your kids about divorce will be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do, but it sets the tone for everything that is going to happen moving forward. Remember, if we are to be what we want our children to become, then we must be the role models they deserve to observe and emulate.
Are you being “what” you want your kids to be? What tips can you share for how you told your kids that you were taking on a new title of divorced-mom?