Telling the kids

Last night my husband and I told the kids that we’re getting a divorce. Actually, I did almost all of the talking, but I did ask him if he wanted to add anything at the end. I had been debating the right timing for telling the children, even though I’m certain they knew that something was up, based on our behavior and arguments. The tipping point came, though, when my husband threatened to tell the children on his own terms, telling them whatever he wanted to. He was upset with me at the time and used that threat to try to control me. This was completely unacceptable to me because he’s shown a history of letting his emotions dictate his behavior and language, and I wasn’t willing to let my children’s first news of the impending divorce come from someone who was communicating from a place of anger, resentment and revenge. His threat absolutely terrified me because I knew how much damage he could inflict on the children if he decided to tell them simply to hurt me.

When I brought it up with him, letting him know that I was going to tell the children because I couldn’t risk him telling them and sharing too much information or doing it in a hurtful way, he said he wasn’t willing to talk about it, but he couldn’t prevent me from telling them. I decided to tell them at the beginning of an extended break that I have from work, hoping that the extra time and relaxed space we will have together will help them deal with the news. I’ll be more available for conversation and to show them support and that we are still a family, even if the format is going to change.

I asked my husband if he wanted to be there while I told the children and he said yes. I was very worried about his behavior, especially when he arrived in the room prior to the children and looked like he was absolutely fuming. I reminded him that I needed him to be in control of his own emotions because we needed to be there to support the children. I asked him if he could do that and he said yes.

I don’t recall the exact words I used, but I had written down the main ideas that I wanted to share with the children ahead of time, to make sure I didn’t miss anything important. Here are the things I mentioned:

  • Mom and Dad are getting a divorce. Sometimes a husband and wife grow apart, and that’s what happened with Mommy and Daddy.
  • We are still a family. Just because the format of our family changes, it doesn’t mean that we’re not a family anymore. I’ll always be your mom and dad will always be your dad. You will still see your grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles.
  • We both love you kids very much and that will never change.
  • The divorce is not your fault and it has nothing to do with you kids. Don’t ever think that it’s because of anything you did.
  • Many things will stay the same — the same schools, same bus stop, you will still live in the same house, same bedrooms, same pets, same activities. Mom and Dad will just be taking more turns spending time with you kids, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll never do things together.
  • You kids can talk to us anytime you want to about what you’re feeling and thinking, or if you have any questions. We always want to hear what you’re thinking and feeling, so we can help you deal with it. You can also see a counselor, just like Mom and Dad are, because they can help us deal with our emotions, too.

After I was done sharing all that information with them, I asked if any of them had any questions. The youngest wanted to know if we would still celebrate her birthday.

I also want to talk about how the kids reacted. The three youngest cried, two of them wanted to cuddle, but one of them didn’t want a hug or any physical contact. Our oldest son (a teenager) laid on the floor and blinked back a few tears, but remained mostly stoic. Our second son looked upset and after we were done talking, he angrily stalked around the house and didn’t want to talk. After our talk, my husband made hot cocoa for everyone and the kids asked if I would play Telestrations with them, which I did. My youngest asked if she could sleep with me last night and I said that was fine. Today my husband took our second son with to his counseling appointment and hopefully that will help him to start talking about his feelings. The kids have been mostly acting like their normal selves today. I’m sure this is a subject that will come up again and again, but for now they are dealing with it okay.

This was a pivotal event in the divorce process and I feel like I handled it okay, given the circumstances. I wish that my husband had taken a more active and supportive role in talking with the children, but at least he was there and is showing them support after the fact. It feels like we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that the information is out in the open and everyone knows.

What has your experience been telling your kids about your divorce, or how were you told about your parents’ divorce when you were a kid? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Wishing you peace today,

L

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