This is a follow-up article to Telling Young Children About Divorce.
Even (self absorbed) adolescents are usually aware of serious conflict between their parents. The following are some guidelines to make the “telling” easier for you and your children.
Older children are exquisitely aware of the rupture between their parents and may even have been drawn into the conflict or used as a confidantes by one or both. Although older children understand more and will, most likely, be more aware of marital difficulties:
Try not to over-share. Just because you feel they will understand doesn’t mean that they can handle hearing certain damaging details or even really want to. Tell them that you know they will have lots of questions and you will try to answer those questions the best that you can.
Be aware that many children, sensitive to the discomfort their questions or negative feelings cause you, may protect you by being silent. Though it may be painful for you, try to be open to what they need to ask and express.
Helping your children feel safe can be exceptionally difficult for parents who are dealing with their own crisis, particularly at a time when you are so unsettled yourself. Your behavior will be setting an example for your children that they may replicate later in their lives when they are in crisis. As difficult as it is, try to set the kind of example that older children will remember.
All children will want to know what will change and what won’t. Where will they live? Will they go to the same school? When will they see each parent? Can they keep the dog? Will they still be able to see their friends? Reassure them that you will attempt to keep their lives as stable as possible.
Resist the temptation to get the children to align with you against the other parent, a tactic that can bear toxic fruit far into the future.
Try to do the “telling” together. Practice how you both are going to remain in control so you don’t become upset or angry during the talk.
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