One of the hardest conversations we have with divorcing parents surrounds their fears about telling the children that a marriage is over.
As their lawyers, the very best advice that we have for them is 1) to seek out a mental health professional experienced with families and children who can guide them through how to tell the children, and 2) to consider a collaborative or mediated divorce that will provide them with support in remaining co-parents through the divorce and beyond, and encourage a faster, less conflicted divorce.
Get Help From a Professional
Mental health professionals have long known that children whose parents have divorced will do better when their parents are able to remain emotionally strong and supportive for their children. Children are more impacted negatively by high-conflict divorce more than the divorce itself. Involving a mental health professional will give you access to expertise tailored to your family’s unique situation and focus on the best approach for your children.
If you would like to do some background reading as well, in Psychology Today, Dr. Kevin Arnold gave six tips on telling the kids and having a child-centered approach throughout the process. He recommends to “give much thought to the setting and circumstances when you break the news” and “not to assume how children will react, and let them feel all the feelings, even when those feelings are confusing to you.”
Another point that Dr. Arnold makes is “when you decide to end the marriage, end it swiftly. No one will win either way.”
“Financial and parenting issues take on a life of their own during divorce. Some divorces take years to settle the issues-often more because one or both parents feel the need to win. For children, the never ending divorce feels like a 12 hour drive to Disney World done in one day: uncomfortable and interminable.
In the Utah study, one child said “Get on with it.'”
Consider Collaboration or Mediation
In addition to recommending that couples not allow their divorce to drag on, Dr. Arnold emphasizes that children benefit from a “united message delivered by both parents-children feel less disturbed when parents exhibit this kind of maturity.”
In her “Guide to Telling the Children about the Divorce” and “A Good Problem to Have: Family Togetherness Post-Divorce,” Dr. Lisa Herrick agrees that choosing collaboration or mediation as opposed to a traditional, litigious divorce can help spouses transition into successful co-parents.
From telling the kids, to treating each other well through divorce, to “maintaining a close and friendly connection as the children grow up,” collaborative divorce and mediation can assist parents committed to helping their children adapt more easily to a stressful time in the family’s life.
Please contact us at Freed Marcroft for more information about what collaborative divorce and mediation are and how they work.