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What parents should keep in mind when talking about divorce

While those who have little experience with divorce might identify having to pack up and leave the family home as being the most difficult first step in the process, those who have gone through it would likely rank this well behind the much more harrowing task of having to break the news to children.

While there's no question that having a conversation with children about an impending divorce will be exceedingly difficult and altogether life-changing for everyone, it's important to understand that it can still be done constructively and in a manner that is respectful of the children's needs.

Indeed, experts have identified some basic tips that divorcing parents should consider before having this discussion with their children, as it can make things go much more smoothly.

Be clear that they aren't at fault

Experts indicate that there is a natural inclination for children -- regardless of age -- to believe that they were somehow responsible for the divorce. As such, they indicate that parents must establish from the start that they had nothing to do with the divorce and are entirely blameless.

Be straightforward about the divorce

While it might be tempting to equivocate or use less harsh language, experts urge parents not to do this, as it sends mixed messages to children and might give them false hope for reconciliation. An example of this would be saying that you and your soon-to-be ex were "taking a break."

Instead, be clear, concise and considerate.

Be mindful of your emotions

Experts urge parents not to become overly emotional -- whether through extreme anger or sadness -- as it can prove to be unnecessarily traumatic to children. Recognizing that the goal is to convey that the divorce is the best possible option, parents should try to speak calmly and in measured tones.

Be purposeful

While it can be hard for one parent to move out, experts indicate that it's best for this to be done as soon as possible, but also with advance notice to the children so that they have time to prepare emotionally for the departure.

While there is no set amount of time, the idea is to spare children from having to experience unnecessary and seemingly endless anxiety.

Be inclusive

Rather than having a separate divorce discussion with each child, experts suggest parents consider making the announcement with all children present. This not only makes it easier for the parent, but more importantly, prevents children from having to feel as if they are keeping a secret from their siblings.

We'll continue this discussion in a future post. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns relating to divorce or child custody, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and options. 

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