Different couples handle divorce in different ways. For many people, divorce is the most stressful if not devastating time in their lives, while for other spouses, putting the marriage behind them will be a great relief. For children, however, their parents' divorce is always a confusing and overwhelming time.
Children need security, and they often see their parents' divorce as a threat to that security, perhaps especially if the parents are in conflict. To help parents nurture their children through the divorce process and into life after the divorce, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) provides some tips.
Because divorce can be so overwhelming for parents, they sometimes seek comfort and emotional direction from their kids. This can lead to increased pressure on the child, however, and children can easily get confused about how the divorce involves them and how it doesn't.
In general, it is important for divorcing parents not to discuss their marital problems with the children, and for parents to help the children understand that the divorce is not their fault. Along those same lines, there is no need to share more information with the kids than they need to know or have asked for.
Unfortunately, sometimes one parent complains to the children about the other parent, and this can give children a negative perception of themselves and their parents. Again, the goal should be to protect children from the parental conflict that led to divorce.
With that said, though, it is not a good idea to keep the divorce a secret or tell the children at the last minute. Rather, if possible, it is better for you and your co-parent to tell the kids together; assure them that you will never stop being their parents and that you still love them; and let them know that the divorce is sad for everyone involved.
Attorney Kelley A. Joseph works with parents and children to develop time sharing and parenting plans. To learn more, please visit the firm's parent coordination overview.