Telling Your Children Why You’re Getting Divorced
|Recently the BBC raised the question of how much you should tell your children about the reasons for your divorce. Many parents feel that they should be as honest as possible with their children. However, at the same time the situation is likely to be complex and sharing the truth, as you understand it, may well not be in the best interests of the children. There is rarely one sole reason for the breakdown of a relationship. Even an affair or a one-night stand can be a symptom rather than the cause of the relationship breakdown.You may tell yourself that the children “deserve to know the truth” about their father or mother. However, the question you need to ask yourself is whether learning details about the breakdown of the marriage is really in the children’s best interests? Is this going to help them deal with their change in circumstances or is it potentially going to damage their relationship with you or their other parent? Either parent blaming the other for the breakdown, even obliquely, is unhelpful and potentially damaging for the children.Edward Farber PHD says in the Huffington Post that the only truth that your children need to know is that their parents no longer love each other. They do not need to know the reasons why. This seems sensible as long as it is made clear that it is not the children’s fault.The Courts don’t become involved in children matters unless contact and residence arrangements can’t be agreed between the two of you or unless the children are at risk of harm. However, they start from the basis that, in the vast majority of cases, it is in the children’s best interests to have a good relationship with both parents. It is up to both of you as adults and parents to put your own feelings aside in order to ensure that the relationship your children have with both parents is positive. This needs to begin with how you tell your children that you’re separating.
Telling the children you’re separating
This is never going to be an easy conversation to have, but it is important that it is dealt with carefully and sooner rather than later. Once the decision has been made to separate the children should be informed so that there is no danger that they may hear it from someone else first. Children experts appear to be united that the best way to break the news to your children is as a couple. The message needs to come through loud and clear that, while living arrangements are going to change, both of you still love the children and that will always remain the truth.
The way that you explain the separation to your children will be dependent upon their ages. However, planning what you’re both going to say before talking to them will help you ensure that you keep the message simple and clear.
Children need stability
Two of the most important things for children are security and stability. They need to know that they are still loved by both of you and that they will continue to have a positive relationship with both parents. For this reason the sooner that you can get into a stable contact routine the better. That is not to say that it should be set in stone – there needs to be flexibility. However, if the children know when they will be spending time with each parent it will help them adjust to the changed circumstances.
This is, without doubt, going to be a difficult period for you and the children. However, there are may resources available to assist you. Resolution (the national organisation of family solicitors committed to a non-confrontational approach to resolving family disputes) has produced a free downloadable booklet which provides guidance in relation to separating when there are children.
The government also provides free information to help you focus on the children during the separation.
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