If you and your partner decide to separate, or get a divorce, it's very important for you to do everything you can to tell your child about the decision TOGETHER - even if you and your partner are having trouble talking to each other without arguing. That way, both of you bear the responsibility. Explain that you are separating from each other, but not from your child - that you both still love him, and will stay in his life one way or another.
And, most importantly, be sure to tell your child that the separation is not his fault. Most children will believe that it is their fault, especially if they ever heard you argue about any part of raising your children. The two of you will have to be very convincing, if you don't want your child to think the divorce is his fault.
When telling your child, it may be easier if you:
- Try to make the announcement on a weekend morning, so you have time to answer questions and comfort your child before school and work obligations take over.
- Ask your child to say how she is feeling, and let her know that she can say whatever she feels without your being upset with her, because you know it's hard for her. Be prepared for a range of reactions.
- Talk about the changes that will take place, where each parent will live, and when your child will see each of you. With an older child, you can even try to get him involved in the planning.
- As much as possible, leave your child's routines the same as they were. Children need a sense of continuity. However, that doesn't mean you should pretend that nothing will change. Be open about what is happening, and accept your child's feelings, and talk about them openly.
- Keep in mind that your child may not understand the word "divorce," so try and use words that she will understand to explain the situation. Try to find a "positive" example of another family, friend or relative that is divorced, and describe how their children may be handling the situation.
If you are in Canada, and you wish to speak to a counsellor about this, contact Parent Help Line, 1-888-603-9100.