This is one of the most frequently asked questions from parents in our community - it's SUCH an IMPORTANT conversation you need to have with your kids.
This is definitely one of the hardest conversations you'll ever have.
It's heart wrenching, it's terrifying.
You don't want to disappoint your kids. It's all true.
And it's totally human nature to want to avoid this kind of conversation. Any kind of hard, shitty conversations really.
BUT please don't avoid it.
Don't brush over it with a rose coloured brush either.
Sit in your discomfort and talk to your kids about Divorce.
I know that your love for your kids is WAY BIGGER than your discomfort and fear about your marriage ending.
You can do hard things. Your kids are looking to you to guide them through this.
You can do it.
Ok, Deep Breath.
Now, that we are clear that you will have this conversation with your kids. Here are some simple tips to keeping it as clear and to the point as possible.
Your Mindset: Be calm. Be reassuring. Be stronger than you think you can be. Know that everything will work out OK. Your kids will not be irrevocably damaged from Divorce - the only thing that damages them long term, is how their parents handle their Divorce. So, park your baggage and emotions towards your soon to be ex, and remember the love you have for your kids. Keep their best interest in mind over your own pain.
Where to have it: Have this conversation in a location where your kids feel safe and comfortable and where it's calm and quiet. Like at home on the couch, or on the deck in the backyard, or at a favourite place to hang out. Somewhere that has some privacy to it, if it's a public place. You also want to make sure that you have lots of time in your day to have this conversation, so that you don't have to rush off somewhere right after you tell them. You want to be able to be physically near them if they want you to - specially for little kids, to play a game afterwards or to draw or colour. So, you can help them process it.
Where not to have it: In the car on the way somewhere, at a restaurant, somewhere that has distractions, is too loud, or when their friends are around.
Who should be there: Just you, your soon to be ex, and your kids. The original family unit.
How far in advance from moving apart should you have this conversation?: For young kids, just a few weeks beforehand. This might seem too short but seriously - all the kids are going to do between this conversation and the move is worry! So, just leave a short window, a few weeks advance notice is plenty. If your child is a teenager, you could tell them with more lead time, cause they've probably already figured it out anyways. The goal is to reduce worrying and anxiety in your kids.
What the heck should you say?: Keep it simple and to the facts. Something like 'mom and dad are not getting along well/have been fighting/cannot work some issues out and so we are going to live in two separate homes'....then state who is moving where, so they are clear what two homes you are talking about and what moving is going to happen - are they moving into two new places, is one parent staying in the matrimonial home and one moving out, that sort-of thing. The logistics.
From there, tell them that you both love them incredibly, and that none of this is their fault.
Tell them when the move will happen.
And ask them if they have any questions, if they haven't already asked any.
Whatever questions they have, answer them.
This is the beginning of many conversations that will happen over the years, between you and your kids about Separation/Divorce, and so you want to start off as open to talking as possible. But keep your answers age appropriate. And don't give more information than they ask for. Which is why I recommend keeping your answers short and then see what further questions they have.
Just like that - the thing you've been dreading for weeks or months is over, you've gotten over that seemingly impossible hurtle!
It may not feel like it right now, but you and your family have brighter days ahead of you - have faith in that truth.
In my case, my kids were ages 3 and 6 when we told them we were Separating. They didn't quite understand the logistics of the whole thing. The twins thought it was great that they'd get another bedroom and a new house to settle into, as in they thought they were essentially upgrading because now the family would have two houses :) ..it wasn't actually until a little while later that they fully understood that only mommy would be living in one home and only daddy would be living in another home. It was a bit of a process of experiencing a new reality and then processing it and accepting it! They had no one in their lives before us, to reference what being separated meant, so it was completely new territory for them.
In my boyfriend's case, when he and his ex told their kids, their kids had references of family members and family friends who were already separated or divorced, so they could immediately imagine was what it would be like. Their older child was quite upset when they told them. They've all moved through it now though.
As will you and your yours,
Wishing You All the Best!
PS: If you are interested in 1:1 coaching around this topic, I'd be honoured to help, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Together we can positively change the way families are affected by Separation & Divorce! :)