Divorce is hard enough without involving anyone else other than your partner. Unfortunately, while a divorce is technically a personal matter between two individuals who no longer wish to be legally bound to each other, it’s also something that affects everyone in the family.
Some divorces can get messy, weakening relationships and bonds between families. Parents are often caught in the middle between their biological child and the child they gained when he or she married into the family.
Parents, however, are easier to explain to than children and if a divorcing couple shares kids of any age, the tough question always arises: “How do I tell my kids?”
It stands to reason that neither party wants to involve their kids too deeply and see them hurt in the process, but not involving them is not an option. If you’re stumped at how to address the issue of divorce with your immediate family members, here’s a rough guide to follow by age and relationship type.
Your young children, biological or adopted, have a right to know the basics surrounding the divorce. They, however, do not need to know the finer details.
You will have to address the fact that their two parents will no longer be living together and that they might see one parent only once a week or so (depending on how custody is set up). Be aware that it will be hard for your child and he or she will likely feel anger towards you, but remember not to put pressure on a small child to choose which parent to be with. This will feel more like a battle of who-do-I-love more and this has been proven to have long-lasting psychological effects on kids who experience divorce.
Share the basics and leave out the finer details. Have a good sit down with your kid(s) and let them know what is happening and the living arrangements that will follow the divorce. Children often take it upon themselves to accept the blame for a divorce. It’s your place as parents to let them know that this is in no way the case. The best way to do this is to continue to love them to the best of your ability, and make every effort to be civil toward each other when in the presence of the kids.
Your children are old enough to understand good vs bad.
It can be downright daunting addressing important issues like this with teens and we often feel like they’re old enough to surmise what’s going on. While this may be true, nothing says I love you like I trust you enough to open up to you.
Talk to your teen openly leaving out the nitty gritty details like financial worries and things that will paint a nasty picture of your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Continue to show love to your child and show acceptance towards each other as people. Put your best foot forward, after all, divorce is about making changes for the better.
Parents of the divorcing couple
We’ve seen in our experience that it’s often easier to do a set of parents at a time, giving everyone enough room to contemplate the divorce. While it may feel like it’s none of their business and they shouldn’t interfere with your decision, remember that their lives will also change a little. They will be losing a son or daughter-in-law and may have limited access to their grandkids in the event that a custody battle ensues. They may have a lot to say, but if both parties continue to show patience and kindness, the divorce doesn’t have to spell the end of everything.
At the end of the day, there is really no rigid rule on how to approach the topic with family members. But there is one thing that can make any divorce easier to handle and that’s a kind and patient approach.
We say this with the utmost respect, as we know those who divorce are often going through a terrible time. It’s chaotic and it’s happening to you, not your family. We like to say, always remember who will be there to sweep your heart’s floors clean when all the dust settles.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with high asset divorce. You can read more on this topic by visiting our divorce blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.