Getting a New York divorce is tough no matter how you slice it, but divorcing when you share children with your spouse can be particularly challenging. You’ll need to break the ice, but how you do it and what you say can have a significant impact on a child. Here are some ideas to help you deliver the news more easily and provide your children with the care and support they need during this challenging time.
Be Gentle But Straightforward
It’s important to be gentle with your children during your divorce, but also straightforward and honest. Let them know what’s going on as soon as it is practicable, ideally prior to any major changes within the family home. Give your children as much time as possible to process these changes before they occur; if you wait until right before or even after, the situation may feel more like an emergency, which can be even more traumatizing.
Use Age Appropriate Language
How you tell your children that you’re getting a divorce is significantly impacted by their age, education, and capacity for understanding. If you use complex language for younger children, they may become confused and frightened more easily. However, if you use simple terms for older children to explain what a divorce is and how it will affect them, this may make them feel as though you do not value or respect them.
Make sure that you are delivering the message in the best possible light by being selective about what you reveal and using age appropriate language to communicate complex ideas and concepts.
Validate Their Emotions
Emotional validation is the cornerstone of helping your children through the difficult process of restructuring your family unit. Without adequate emotional support, children whose parents are getting or who have gotten a New York divorce tend to have more behavioral problems, are at a higher risk of anxiety and depression, have more difficulty at school, and experience other severe social and emotional issues.
Let your children know that they can approach you with questions, ask for guidance, or even just to get a hug from time to time. Allow them to express their emotions safely and avoid invalidating or belitting them when they have big feelings and have difficulty processing them.
Affirm That the Divorce Is Not Their Fault
Children are especially sensitive to taking on the emotional burden of a divorce and may believe that the separation is their fault. It’s important that you and your spouse affirm to your child that the divorce isn’t because of them and that you both love them and want what’s best for them. Reinforce this idea often in your words and actions and make sure that your spouse is on the same page.
Kids often have big emotions that they have difficulty processing, especially when they are younger. If they’re older, they may be tempted to repress their emotions or it may come out as anger. Many parents wait until their children begin to exhibit signs that something is wrong, but it can benefit your children immensely to have counseling already arranged when you tell them you’re getting a divorce. Let your children know when you deliver the news of the divorce that counseling is immediately available to them.
Remain Civil With Your Spouse If Possible
Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to remain civil throughout the process of dissolving your marriage and while coparenting your children. This may become difficult if your divorce is contested, particularly if your divorce has a high net worth. However, if possible, working together where your children are concerned is going to reduce the amount of stress on them both during and after the end of your marriage.
Advocate for Their Best Interests With the Help of a New York Divorce Attorney
First and foremost, you should ensure you are advocating for the best interests of your children. This is challenging without the help of a New York divorce lawyer. An attorney can help you work with your spouse to determine how you want to tell your children about the divorce and what steps to take to secure your children’s future.
Heidi E. Opinsky is an experienced divorce attorney in Manhattan and can provide you with the comprehensive divorce education and advocacy you need. Call now for a consultation to discuss your legal options by dialing 203-653-3542. Or, contact Attorney Opinsky via our easy online form.