Divorce is a big decision for parents to make, and it is one that will affect the entire family. If you and your spouse have determined that the best path forward is to end your marriage, you may be wondering when you should break the news to your kids.
Generally, it is good to tell children about divorce sooner rather than later. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind as you plan this difficult conversation.
Are you absolutely certain about your divorce?
Typically, it is best if parents tell their children about their divorce before any divorce-related changes are expected to occur. However, this is only true if the divorce is definitely going to happen.
If there is any chance that you and your child’s other parent may work things out, it may be better to keep the possibility of divorce to yourselves. This is because the prospect of divorce can be very confusing and very upsetting to a child. Most children recover well in time, but if divorce is not certain there may not be a need to cause them unnecessary distress.
Picking the right day and time
Experts don’t all agree on how early children should be told about divorce. Their advice ranges from a few weeks to a few months before any big change. The exact timing may depend on the child’s age, developmental stage, ability to understand divorce, personality and other factors. In the end, you and your child’s other parent probably know best how much time your child needs to prepare for any big change.
As you consider the right time to tell your kids, keep in mind that it may be helpful to try to avoid telling them on the days surrounding special occasions like birthdays or holidays. You might also try to avoid telling them too late in the day.
Consider selecting a time when you and your kids are not rushed or busy. You might also consider choosing a time when you can be available to your kids for several hours after the conversation, in case they have additional questions or need some extra reassurance.
This change affects the whole family
When selecting the right time to tell kids about divorce, one of the most important considerations may be family togetherness. Divorce will affect the entire family, so the entire family should be together when breaking the news.
If you have multiple children, it is often best to tell them all at once. This prevents any child from feeling like they need to keep the news secret or feeling that the news was kept secret from them.
It may also be best to have both parents present for the conversation. This way, you and your spouse can present a unified message to your children. This also allows you both to be available to answer questions and provide reassurance.
There may never be the prefect time to give a loved one bad news. However, with some thoughtful considerations, it may be possible to select a time that will make hearing the bad news a little easier on your kids.