Once you and your husband decide to divorce, the most important task you will have is telling your children. There are definitely wrong and right ways to do this.
Recently, Oprah had Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist and divorce expert, on her show. According to Dr. Neuman, the way children are told about their family breaking up is a seminal moment that no child forgets.
The way you choose to tell your child about divorce makes a life-long impression on them. Below is a list of recommendations from Dr. Neuman — some basic rules to follow when talking to your children about this issue.
- "Both parents should be present to tell the children together — with the main message being, you, the children, are still our priority."
- It should not take more than 45 seconds. Say what you need to say quickly and then spend the time your child needs to answer any questions they may have.
- Practice what you are going to say, before blurting out things that can hurt forever.
- Never disparage the other parent, because it makes your child feel guilty about loving them.
Dr. Neuman says, "we heal through loving connection. Every time we're hurt or feel like we can't go on, it's someone reaching out and connecting that makes the difference. And love — no matter how it's offered or when it comes — can build a bridge to something better."
Divorce rocks the very foundation a child has built their life upon. To destroy that foundation in a non-loving way can and will fracture your relationship with your child, not to mention the damage it will do to your child emotionally. Regardless of how hurt you are and how unsure you are of where your future may lead, you have to put your child's feelings and needs first.
If you are unable to do that, do yourself and your child a favor and allow someone else to tell them about the divorce — someone who is able to show them love and concern at a time when they need it most.
Cathy Meyer is the head of About.com's Divorce Support channel. To hear more from Cathy, go to: divorcesupport.about.com.