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It also leaves them ill prepared for this major event of their lives. Children always do better in hearing the truth than in hearing a lie or misleading information from a parent. Rather, parents should give accurate and truthful information, and then help their children deal with the feelings that are generated.

If instead, each parent, without conferring with the other, tells the children, separately and at separate times, why they are getting a divorce, then the children frequently will hear two different stories. That leaves me confused. Moreover, each parent typically attributes the cause of the divorce to the other parent. Because marital separations tend to be very complex, multi-layered matters, with multiple contributing factors, both parents may be presenting accurate realities from their respective points of view.

However, children believe that there can only be one truth about a given matter. The idea that there may be multiple truths is beyond the grasp of most children, since it requires a level of abstract thinking of which children are not yet capable except, perhaps, for older teenagers.

The idea of telling your children the story of your divorce is rooted in the time-honored ritual of story telling--a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Children love stories. They typically loved to hear the story of your courtship and your marriage, as well as the story of their own birth and development.

If you are contemplating divorce, you might wonder how to tell the children.

Most children ask to hear these stories over and over, throughout their childhood. Story telling is a very powerful ritual for bonding relationships and communities alike. While the suggestion to utilize a bonding tradition during a divorce may seem odd, it is actually quite credible. Moreover, children are helped to process the divorce when their parents encourage them to bond with both parents within the reorganized family unit.

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Children do not like hearing that one of their parents is the cause for the divorce and is responsible for the pain of everyone in the family. If, however, both parents mutually take responsibility for the break-up, then their children are set free from being caught in the middle of a loyalty conflict.

When I ask parents to formulate a mutual story of their divorce, initially, many are unable. Most of us, when rejected by a person we love or once loved, tend to protect our self-esteem by blaming another for our failures. Certainly, divorce provides a golden opportunity to do this. However, when each parent resists and rises above this tendency for the sake of the children, the children are provided a chance for a better outcome. Arriving at a mutual story becomes easier after considering the ways in which a given event can be framed.

The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Kids

Several examples follow: Divorce Scenario 1: Consider, for example, a typical scenario of divorce. Mother and Father had been emotionally drifting apart from one another for several years. Father met an attractive woman at work and had an affair. Mother found out about it, reacted with rage, kicked him out, and then filed for divorce.

How To Talk to Your Children About the Reasons for Your Divorce

Mother, alone, might tell the children that Mom and Dad are getting divorced because their father was unfaithful and cheated on her. She might add that he spent all of his time at work, rather than with his family, and that she is tired of shouldering all the responsibilities of the family by herself.

Develop a Culture of Accountability in Your Home

So, he finally has decided to leave the marriage. He adds that he feels angry at her for forcing the break-up the family and making the children lose their father.

These certainly are two accurate ways to describe this divorce, as they each represent the respective emotional truths of each spouse. However, if the children were told these two different stories, they would certainly be confused and angry. We used to also love each other a lot, and we still do care about each other. We have been unhappy with each other for a long time. Tell them the basic plan — that they will see both parents every week, that they will see both parents every weekend — basic reassurance that they will be with Dad sometimes and with Mom sometimes, and ideally you will be all together sometimes for things like soccer games and celebrations some celebrations — perhaps….

Anything that is staying the same, mention and reassure them that these things will remain the SAME. Some kids ask a lot of questions, and some ask nothing.

How To Talk to Your Children About the Reasons for Your Divorce

The children who say nothing need to be coaxed over the coming weeks and months to talk to you, to draw pictures about it, to read books with you about it…. The children who ask a lot of questions need to be answered, and reassured over and over again. Try not to hound the children about their feelings, but ask them a question or two every few days. For example: How are you doing with the changes in our family? Was that hard?

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What did you do when you felt sad? Did you talk to anyone? What might help when you feel sad about it — what ideas do you have for what you can do? How does it go? What are they scared of? Help reassure them about worries that are NOT realistic let kids know they can take some toys to the new house; that the pet will go back and forth with them perhaps, or their nanny will go back and forth, or whatever you can tell them about what will make them feel better. If parents get choked up, or cry, it is OK. Acknowledge that this is a sad event for the family, but you will all try to help each other with this, and you will all still love each other.

I understand how hard this is for all of us. You are going to try to make the world still feel safe, even if the reality as they know it is changing dramatically. Let your children know you will ALL get through this — and you will.