How Will We Tell Our Kids?
When a divorce happens in a family, it is never just the married couple that is affected. The parents of the bride and groom, the siblings, the aunts and uncles, even the friends of the couple: all of these people are affected by divorce. Nearly everyone will eventually choose a "side," and some might even sever ties with the side they did not choose. Children are unique in a divorce, in that, most times, they cannot choose, yet they may be the most hurt. In many divorces (with the exception of those that involve any kind of domestic violence), the children will still be involved with both parents, and they will still deeply love both Mom and Dad.
Beginning to tell the "secret."
At the time the couple begins to think divorce is inevitable, they share their "secret" with others, maybe a sister, a parent, or a friend or two. The children, though, are usually among the last to know. My two children were pretty young, and both their father and I were a little scared about telling them. We knew in the summer, but we did not tell our kids until after Halloween.
Getting things in place.
In our Collaborative Divorce, we engaged the services of a Child Specialist, a woman who regularly works with families in crisis, and it was she who helped us to find a way to tell our two children. As we dealt with the practical side of things, like where I was going to live after leaving the marital home and how I would support myself, we delayed talking with the children until certain things were set in place. I began working after nine years of staying at home, I found a small apartment, and I furnished it with some new things, but mostly hand-me-down pieces of furniture. I stocked the cabinets with the kids' favorite foods and snacks, and I made sure their bedroom was completely put together.
Telling the children.
On the Saturday morning after Halloween, we sat down together at our kitchen table with the kids, and asked them what they knew about divorce. Both of them admitted that they knew kids whose parents were divorced, and after they had talked awhile, we gently told them that that was happening to Mom and Dad, too. I cannot pretend that it was an easy conversation and that they smiled and said "OK." To the contrary, both children cried out, ran from the table and went opposite directions in the house. We each followed one of them, and we tried to calm them. Eventually, we all found our way back to the kitchen. Later that day, I took them to my new "home" and they seemed resigned. I don't think they stayed with me that first night, but once we had an agreement on shared parenting, the jumbled week that we now know and love became "life."
It's been almost six years since that sad day, and it still hurts. But we've all grown up a little, and we all learned firsthand how time heals.