If you are planning to divorce, as a parent you have many concerns, the first of which may be how to tell your children. If you are in counseling, your therapist may have several suggestions for sharing the news with your children and preparing them for the transition during and after the divorce. You may also want to consider working with a divorce coach or parenting coordinator depending upon the nature of co-parenting or custody concerns you are facing. Seeking advice from experienced, specific support resources can make a significant difference in your and your children’s ability to cope and adapt. The decision to divorce is only one step in a series of changes and modified plans that will vary as your children grow and your and your ex’s lives change (relocation, remarriage, etc), so preparing now can help you avoid being mired in adversity and litigation, which will risk financial and emotional collapse for your family.
If counseling isn’t a viable option for you (don’t assume it isn’t within your financial means as many therapists work on a sliding fee scale), there are a number of online resources including www.uptoparents.org and www.coparenting101.org which have blogs, discussion boards, videos, radio broadcasts and even worksheets and exercises which can help you become more child-centered and focus on co-parenting. With advice from experts and other parents who’ve been there, you can mine the information that is best for your particular situation.
You may also want to consider reading one of the numerous divorce guides or books with advice for divorcing parents. In determining which books are best for preparing your children, there are actually only a few which are based on solid knowledge and psychological research about how children and adolescents respond to the separation of their parents. Some which are recommended are: ‘Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two’ by Isolina Ricci; ‘The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions so You and Your Children Can Thrive’ by Robert E. Emery, or ‘For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered’ by E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly.
The reality is that the extreme cases in divorce are, thankfully, the rare scenarios. Divorce is not “easy” despite opinions to the contrary, but it also isn’t likely to lead to tragedy. Most families will struggle with financial and emotional issues as they separate into two households, change parenting styles or responsibilities, adjust schedules, deal with support and work issues and try to figure out “where to go from here.” Grief, anger, bitterness, resentment, and even relief are all natural feelings which accompany divorce. These are feelings not just for the spouses, but their children as well.
Divorce isn’t just a legal issue, and compassionate family law attorneys will acknowledge that by providing suggestions to clients of external resources to address the financial and emotional issues. The traditional litigation divorce model is only one path to dissolve your marriage, and for many families, alternatives to litigation such as collaborative law or mediation are better options to reduce the impact of the divorce on the spouses and children. Prospective divorce clients are usually operating from two different emotional positions – one is proactive, a spouse who for a number of reasons meets with an attorney for a general consultation to possibly discuss divorce, but isn’t ready to initiate proceedings. The other is in reactionary mode because the other spouse has filed for divorce or perhaps has committed infidelity causing a strong emotional response often motivated by retaliation. In either situation, you can benefit from planning and researching how to discuss divorce with your children. Your advance preparation can help you avoid involving them in an adult situation, and minimize the emotional impact as you guide them through the transition.