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Meirav's guide: "How to tell children about the breakup"

עודכן ב: 23 דצמ 2021


Meirav Yerushalmi, mediator and parent counsellor.


There is a right way to divorce. A way that will ensure the happiness of each one of you and minimize the harm most dear to you - your children. This path begins here and now - in the way you choose to tell children about the breakup. This is not a simple conversation, and you must prepare in advance- preferably together with your partner! In this conversation, it is important that you put the children first and try to see the world from their point of view.


Whether and when to tell children?

It is advisable to involve the children only before they actually see the change, for example when one of the parents leaves the house. Sometimes couples will decide on a separation before finally deciding on divorce and will try to hide it from the children. But children deserve to know what is going on, and they also need it to maintain a sense of security and stability. So, if you have decided to separate but are not sure what will happen next, tell the kids.

However, if you already know that separation will inevitably lead to divorce - do not try to embellish reality and present it as a temporary separation only. Remember that your child will have the hope that one day their father and mother will come back to live together. A determined and consistent message will help him come to terms with the new reality.


The Timing of the Conversation

Studies show that children who are exposed to the knowledge about divorce long before separation find it harder to deal with it because they are preoccupied for a long time with the fear and apprehension upon them. On the other hand, you should give them enough time to digest the message and get used to it. Of course, the time of advance notice also depends on the age of the child. I recommend, if possible, scheduling the message a week or two before parting.


Conversation Preparation

I am sure it is clear that you must convey stability and security to the children. Convey the message that you are not separated from them, and nor because of them. I am also sure it is clear you need to present a future reality in which the impact on the routine of their lives is minimal and that they are not going to lose you, the parents.

And yet, many times I find parents who do not plan the conversation in advance or that it is left in the hands of only one parent. If you want to convey to your children a message of security, stability, and a united front as parents - you must have the conversation together and after you have planned it well. Planning will increase the chances that you will say everything you wanted to say, in the way you wanted to say it.


Within this conversation, put aside the conflict between you and your partner- you do not want this conflict to surface during the conversation with your children. Therefore, you should process the details in advance between yourselves:

  • What is the reason for the divorce, which you intend to present to the children (depending on their age and understanding)?

  • When will the change take place and what will it be - who leaves the house, when and where?

  • What they can expect - what days will the children stay with each parent, what is the effect on their daily routine (school, friends, classes, etc.)

If possible, try to anticipate the children's questions and prepare answers in advance, alongside discussing all details you wish to disclose with your partner. Without sufficient planning, tension may arise exposing the child to the conflict.


Rules for a good conversation

  • Keep the conversation calm - it is important that you stay composed and positive during the conversation. Remember that the way you present the separation to the children is how they will perceive it. Gather yourself for the conversation, put aside the anger and tensions and concentrate on building the children's confidence for what is going to happen.


  • Do not turn to accusations - This will demonstrate the conflict between you and your partner. Feelings of resentment and accusations will exacerbate feelings of insecurity and uncertainty in the child. More than that, he may feel they are obliged to pick sides. This is not the time to argue and blame. Try to maintain a united and calm front. Use the word "we" and not "I", so that he understands that this is a joint decision and that the concern for him was and will continue to be shared.


  • Provide a reason - of course, you should not involve the child