Modern families come in many different forms, but it’s a universal truth that children thrive when they feel safe and well-cared for. Even though the dynamics of your family are changing, you can help your kids adjust to this transition by sharing the news of divorce in a way that addresses their fears and eases their concerns.
At The Ward Law Firm, we believe honest yet age-appropriate communication is the best way to help kids navigate the challenges divorce can bring. We recommend parents keep the following tips in mind when deciding how to tell their children about their decision to end their marriage.
As a parent, it’s natural to want to prevent your children from suffering any sort of hurt or heartbreak. While you may want to put off delivering the news as long as possible, delaying the conversation opens you up to the possibility that your children may hear the news from someone else. To a child, overhearing a hushed conversation between extended family members or a bit of local gossip can feel like a serious betrayal.
Present a United Front
You and your spouse should deliver the news of your divorce together. The two of you should plan to share this information on a day when you’ll have plenty of private time to process emotions as a family without the distraction of school, work, or other social commitments. It’s best to tell all of your children at the same time, but you can pull aside older children afterward if they have additional questions or concerns. If there’s too much conflict in your relationship with your spouse, a family counselor or mediator can help keep everyone’s emotions under control.
Avoid Going Into Detail
Your kids don’t need to know the reasons for your divorce. Divorce is a grown-up issue, so it’s inappropriate for your children to know about infidelity, substance abuse, excessive spending, or other sources of marital tension. It is best to simply say that you are unable to work out your differences. In addition, any explanation that involves blaming your spouse could be used as evidence you’re not committed to co-parenting when it comes time to determine custody and visitation.
Reassure Them That They’ve Done Nothing Wrong
It is common for children to worry that they’ve somehow caused a parental divorce. A child may worry that bad grades in school, uncompleted chores, fights with siblings, or accidentally broken household items are the cause of your marital breakdown. Explain that the conflict between you and your spouse has nothing to do with any of your children and that you’re both committed to remaining an active part of their lives.
Do Not Tell Your Children They Can Choose Where to Live
One of the biggest concerns for children of divorcing parents is knowing where they will live. You can tell your children who they will be living with while the divorce is being finalized, but do not promise they will be allowed to choose where they want to live after the divorce. Under Georgia law, children who are 14 and up may request to live with one parent. However, the court is only required to consider the child’s wishes and will ultimately make a decision determined to be in the child’s best interests. If there are other factors to consider, the court may make an alternate child custody ruling that goes against your child’s preference.
Let Them Ask Questions
Some kids won’t want to talk about the divorce right away—and that’s perfectly normal. However, others will have questions about the specific ways in which their routines will change. For example, they may want to know if they’ll need to go to a different school, if they’ll still be able to see their friends, if you will celebrate holidays as a family, or if you’ll both still attend their sporting events. Answer questions as honestly as you can. If you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to say that you’re still figuring things out and that you’ll let them know as soon as you have more information.
During This Challenging Time, The Ward Law Firm Can Help Your Family Move Forward
Making the decision to end your marriage isn’t easy, but The Ward Law Firm can help you prepare for the legal issues that may arise and answer any questions you may have about Georgia divorce law. Please contact our office or use our online contact form to request a no-obligation REAL Case Analysis with experienced Gwinnett County divorce attorney David J. Ward.