If you have made the difficult decision to file for divorce, you have already crossed a threshold that many people are sitting in a similar position as you do not have the mental fortitude to cross. Deciding once and for all that your marital relationship, the bedrock of your life and that of your children, is no longer working for you is a huge decision to make. It probably took some thought, prayer, and soul searching to get here, and now you are left wondering what else do you have to do to make your divorce worth the effort that it will take from you.
Well, as if admitting to yourself that your marriage has failed was not tricky enough, now comes the part where you will need to talk to your children about your decision if you have not done so already. Admittedly every family is different- yours included. I don't know the nature of your relationship with your kids- not to mention the fact that I don't know you. But, if you are anything like most people, you will have either told your children before the divorce is filed that you will be filing, or you will have to summon the courage to discuss things with your children as soon as you file. If you wait much longer, you run the risk of having your child find out on their own.
We hope that our children are resilient and tough-minded in dealing with the outside world. These are goals that any reasonable parent should have. We don't wager that sometimes our children need to be tough and resilient in the face of obstacles set up by their own families. In this situation, your and your spouse's relationship has caused the divorce to be necessary. Your children are now innocent by-standards left to face the divorce.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss how to talk to your children about your divorce. Depending on your child's age, you should approach the conversation in different ways. The reason is that your child will be able to understand different levels of information on your divorce, depending on their age. Take some time to think about the age and maturity of your child before determining just how to approach the conversation. Next, you will have to talk to a person that you may not be on all that great of terms with- your spouse- to go about this conversation together.
Tell your children about your divorce together with your spouse
While the very thought of being in the same room as your spouse may make your blood boil, I would work as hard as I could to put those feelings away for a short period to deliver the news of the divorce to your children as a co-parenting team.
First of all, just because you are getting a divorce does not mean that your relationship with your spouse is done. This isn't a breakup in high school or even a divorce from a person you did not have children with. Because you committed with this person to raise children together, that promise will stretch well beyond the length of your marriage. Be prepared to have this be the first of many conversations and messages delivered as a team to your children. If it's not, you all will have an adamant time raising your children as divorced parents.
When you arrange a time to speak to your children with your spouse, you should both do your best not to blame one parent or the other for the divorce. Be as straightforward as you can be about how you and your spouse will no longer be living together and will no longer be married. Children will always have questions regarding divorce, but one area you want to leave no doubt about is the future of your relationship. Leaving the impression in their minds that your relationship is still up in the air can be highly detrimental to a child. Make sure you are clear about your marriage but then pivot into a conversation about your child and away from your relationship.
Even if your child is doing their best to downplay their own emotions about your divorce, they will likely be feeling insecure and a little vulnerable at the news their providers will no longer be living under one roof. Children thrive on stability and consistency, and with the news of your divorce, the giant tent pole holding up the tent of their lives will have been knocked over.
To combat this dramatic change to their lives, you should confirm that you and your spouse love your children unconditionally, that their lives will be impacted as little as possible by the divorce and that neither parent is going anywhere. Your family is not broken or breaking up or anything like that. Your family is changing and will look different. It will also feel different. But, the people in your family will not change, and your love for your children will not change.
Together with your spouse, please help your child understand that whatever their feelings on your divorce are perfectly natural and that you are not going to do anything to minimize or dismiss how they are feeling at the moment. If they are hurt, upset, angry, or anything in between, you do not need to convince them to feel otherwise. Allow them to feel that way and then allow them to feel comfortable asking questions and initiating secondary conversations on this subject. With time your child will feel more comfortable with the idea of having divorced parents.
Discussing your divorce with your family and friends
Once you have bitten the bullet and told your children about your divorce, you can get around to discussing the separation and divorce with anyone else you choose to. Note that I used the word "choose." You are under no obligation to post about your divorce on social media or talk about your case with people at work. This is a profoundly personal change that you are undergoing, and you will get to pick when you disclose information to others if that ever actually happens.
On the one hand, you will likely want to keep some details about your divorce private and may not even feel comfortable sharing news of the divorce with most people. That's fine. On the other hand, having a support system to get you through the divorce is crucially essential, and your close family and friends are logical options to choose from in selecting a support system. It is up to you to decide based on what you feel comfortable with.
Boundaries are important. It would help if you discussed with your attorney anything relevant to your divorce because in that area, what you don't disclose could end up hurting you a great deal in how your divorce turns out. There is likely no benefit to disclosing information that you do not want to or do not believe is important to tell in other areas. Please do what you feel is necessary and helpful in making it through your divorce in one piece. If you are asked questions about your marriage or the divorce that you do not want to answer, it is easy- and satisfying- to decline to answer.
Your options when hiring an attorney and other divorce considerations – tomorrow's blog post topic
Come back tomorrow to read more about divorce in Texas, including your options when hiring an attorney, as well as how a divorce and post-divorce landscape could look for you and your family.
In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding divorce or family law in general, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our licensed family law attorney stands ready to assist you with a free-of-charge consultation.