Regardless of how tough divorce is on the adults, it is by far tougher on the children, who are forced to deal with some very adult issues, often at a very young age. Parents frequently struggle with just how much to tell their children, especially on issues where a clear answer is not readily available. For most parents, the first instinct is to assure their kids by telling them everything is going to be okay, that's it's all going to work out in the end. However, children who are old enough to ask if things are going to be okay are generally old enough to understand that this is not a truthful answer. It is, of course, unhealthy to tell your children every little detail of the disputes you are having with their other parent, but it is healthy to validate your children's concerns about life during, and after divorce.
Being honest without scaring your kids is a fine line at times, so you may want to consult a family therapist on appropriate ways to address questions such as “Who am I going to live with?” and “Will we have to move?” Some parents schedule joint therapy sessions, during which they discuss these issues with their children. Being in the same room with your ex may not be possible depending on your personal circumstances, but it may still be beneficial for your children to speak with a therapist. Even without professional help, you can address your children's anxieties with honesty and compassion. It's perfectly fine to say that you and their mom/dad are still working on these issues, or that you're not sure what will happen just yet.
Saying “I don't know” is extremely conflicting for the average parent, but it's better than promising that they'll stay in the same house, the same school and that they'll still be able to keep doing all the same activities they're doing now. Most older kids already know the answer to many of their questions, so they're looking to you for validation or honesty. Promising things that they know are unlikely to continue can end up hurting your relationship; it could also leave with them long-term trust issues that will be difficult to overcome. For younger kids, the betrayal of being lied to cuts very deep, even on seemingly minor things like which toys they can bring to the new house. Although your natural instinct is to protect your kids, telling them that you're not sure, but reassuring them of your love, and your continued efforts to work together with the other parent to come up with the best plan will hurt your kids less in the long-run.
Believe it or not, another great source for questions about what to tell your children is an experienced attorney with extensive experience in family-related issues and domestic relations. For more information on how to communicate with your children during your divorce, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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