D is for Divorce
Divorce is one of the most uncomfortable topics for families to discuss. When parents are facing the decision to divorce, they are not operating in a vacuum. The whole family is being impacted and most likely the children know more about what is happening than parents realize. An honest conversation is not only appropriate, but also necessary in order to mitigate the harm to your children. Children want their mom and dad to love one another and to get along. When marriages break down, the whole family suffers. If you need to have the discussion about divorce, do not put it off. Below are some crucial practices when navigating divorce with your children.
First, be honest without any judgmental words about your soon to be ex-spouse. For example, instead of “Your father is selfish and wants to move out.” Say, “Dad needs his own place right now, but he will have room for you.”
Second, Divorce is not a time for celebration. When families are torn apart, whatever the reason, children will need time to grieve, be angry, and adjust to seeing their parents in separate environments. Even if you feel a sense of relief, be sensitive to what your children may be feeling.
Finally, your child’s perception is his or her reality. Do not downplay his or her emotions by placating them with, “Everything is going to be alright.” Reassure your love and commitment to each one of your children. Your child wants to know that it is not his or her fault and that your love for him or her has not changed.
With these principles in mind, let these questions begin your discussion with your children.
What changes have you noticed in our home environment lately?
Depending on the ages of your children, each one may have a different perspective. However, your children notice more than you think. This question allows them a safe place to discuss anything that they may perceive happening. It is important to know if they have witnessed you and your spouse fighting or arguing. Allowing them to speak about it will help them manage their anxiety.
How has divorce affected someone you know?
In most cases, one or all of your children know of a family who has experienced divorce. Allowing them to discuss their second hand experience will encourage them to consider how they feel about the topic. The truth is, divorce results in a broken home, broken relationships, and broken hearts. Your children have seen the consequences in other families and they have an opinion. Let them express themselves because they will need to process their emotions when divorce affects their family.
Why do some parents get divorced?
This is a very tough question and may not be appropriate for all ages. If your children are teenagers, however, they have ideas about what makes some marriages fall apart. Give your children a platform to express their thoughts and do not be judgmental. Remember, they are not at fault for the decisions of you and your spouse yet they will be deeply affected. Also, avoid turning this into an opportunity to justify your reasons for divorce.
Divorce affects every member of the family and can disrupt the lives of your children more than you may be ready to admit. It is a serious decision that should not be taken lightly. These table topics are only an introduction to the many conversations that need to be intentionally considered and begun. Do not underestimate the ripple effects of this life-changing decision.
Author note: My husband and I have seen some amazing marriage reconciliations. We have also weathered some marital storms ourselves and know the power of forgiveness and restoration. Divorce may seem the only option for you right now, but we encourage you to seek Godly counsel before you take permanent steps.