Are you a parent who is going through a divorce? If so, I am sorry to hear it, really. I know that it is tough and would like to share a few thoughts and tips that could help to make the transition a little easier for you and for your child(ren):
Envision that something big is going on around you and you have no control over the outcome or what it will mean for your future. You see the writing on the wall and know that something is awry but you’re not completely clear on what is going on or what it will mean for your future (think the rumor mill during a potential down-sizing at your organization). You have questions, feel uncertain, and are solely reliant upon the people that you trust immensely to provide you answers and to let you know that, while the road ahead might be difficult, it will all work out. This is what divorce feels like to your child. However, while a major component of divorce is about the loss of love between the adults in the situation, the role of parents (no matter their feelings or conflict toward each other) is to support their child(ren) in accepting and understanding how their parents’ decision impacts them specifically.
Divorce is an extremely challenging life event. Nonetheless, there are things that you can do to make this an easier time for your children and to move your family forward in a healthier way. First off, avoid burdening your child with your own fears, uncertainty, heartache, personal loss, grief, etc. Understand that he or she is going through their own version of the event and that extreme support, help, and understanding is what is in their best interest.
That said, here are some tips that can help to ease the conversation about the transition to your child(ren):
Make sure that you are on a common page before bringing the situation to your children. The news of an impending divorce is hard enough without them having to absorb conflict within the news of the change within the family. It helps to plan what you will share ahead of time. The goal of the discussion is to simply communicate the facts in the situation and to allow your children the opportunity to process the information and to ask any initial questions they may have. Avoid blaming each other and giving too many details about the “why” in the divorce. Remember that this conversation is completely for your child(ren). It is not about you or about proving what a jerk your spouse is.
Here are a few points that you may want to cover:
- That you’ve made a decision to divorce.
- What’s been decided about living arrangements
- Assure them of your love and your commitment to support them through the process
- Acknowledge that there is and will be a transition period and that there are some unknowns. Agree that you will keep the communications lines open and will let them know pertinent information as you know it.
- Give them the opportunity to process the information and to ask questions. Allow them the choice to continue the conversation at that time, or not. Give them space and time to process the news. While they may have known that there were issues going on, they may need some time to absorb what they’ve heard. Gift them that and ensure that they know that the communication lines are open and will remain open.
Listen to your child throughout the entire process and answer their questions honestly. Try to really hear what your child wants to know and answer their questions as directly and honestly as possible. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts that you may want to consider:
- Do try to really hear what your child wants to know and answer their questions as directly and honestly as possible.
- Do be honest – Yes. There will be change. Yes. A parent will live someplace else. Yes. The two parents are working to resolve certain details etc. Yes. There is uncertainty and some unknowns.
- Don’t use your child’s questions as an opportunity to blast the other parent. It is unfair to burden him or her with your fears, uncertainty, anger and frustration.
- Do not use your child(ren) as a communication tool to the other parent.
- Do not speak disparagingly about their other parent, no matter what is going on within the legal process. For example, if your child asks you to buy a pen do not use this as an opportunity to tell the child that you cannot buy the pen because the other parent has left the family to never afford to write again. Commit to keeping those conflicts and your frustrations around them away from your child. They don’t need the information and cannot do anything about it anyway. Figure it out and vent to someone else.
- Don’t hide from the situation. Face it early on. The process of divorce is extremely difficult, impacts almost every aspect of a family’s life (emotional, financial, structure, etc), in a very stressful and frustrating way. The process also involves a tremendous amount of loss and change for all involved.
- Do ensure that those who need to know what is going on (including your child's teachers and other caregivers) are kept in the loop so that they can support you and your child(ren).
- Do seek help for yourself and for your child(ren) if needed. Lean on your family and friends.
Most importantly, it is almost impossible for you to care for another on an empty tank. Do remember that you really do need you during this time. If you feel that you need support - ask for it and make sure that you get it. Avoid the urge to isolate. Keep the lines of communication open. Give yourself a break when you need one and remember that this is a temporary situation that does not have to define the rest of your life nor your child’s life. This too shall, most assuredly, pass. You, and your family, will get to the other side.
Please reach out if you need us either for individual coaching or for our ground-breaking and highly effective divorce support program.
I wish you and your family Peace, forward movement, and the smoothest transition possible.
(973) 378-2262 office
(973) 727-9099 cell
Lisane Basquiat is the co-founder of Transition Haven, LLC; an organization that provides personal & professional leadership coaching, motivational and team-building speaking services, consultation in organizational effectiveness and change management strategies, workshops geared toward management development and personal leadership, team and executive coaching, physical fitness training, transformational retreats, and integrated coaching/fitness programs. Contact us at for more information.