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How to tell the children you are getting divorced

The single hardest task of getting divorced is often breaking the news to the children. Children count on parents to provide love, security and stability to their lives. Unfortunately, news of a change to this dynamic causes a seismic shift that affects the family's foundation.

According to family therapists, it is essential to tell the children in an age-appropriate matter. Ideally, the initial conversation should also lay the groundwork for future discussions as the kids each process the news in their way. If all goes well, it will be the new foundation from which to build the new two-household dynamic.

Preparing to tell them

Both parents should think about what they are going to say ahead of time. Both should be in the room when the time comes – this enables them both to immediately address any fears. The overall message should be along the lines of "We may be splitting up, but we are on the same team when it comes to parenting."

The message 

The message should be age-appropriate. Rather than overwhelming them with a long list of details, it is better to let them process and ask questions. Be sure to share details if the parenting plan and living arrangements are determined. Try to avoid discussing money or dividing assets.

Preparing for their reaction 

There may be a sense of relief if the parents often fight, but children will likely feel upset and perhaps even guilty. Regardless of their response, it is best to listen to their concerns and be patient if they act out. Depending upon their response and personality, it may be helpful to work with a therapist during this time of transition.

Make it about them 

This is a huge time of process for the parent as well, but they should nevertheless try to be patient, reassuring and supportive even if they are looking for that themselves.

Working with the right attorney

It is often faster, causes less stress on the family and saves money if the couple chooses to mediate their divorce. It is essential to discuss this option with any potential attorney to hear their thoughts and ensure that everyone is on the same page. When talking about possible outcomes, the attorney can also help ensure that individual and parental rights are protected, and the negotiations are fair and equitable.

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