Be honest, but not too open
Resist the urge to tell your children about the details of your relationship and reasons behind the decision to divorce. Too much information about the marital issues is overwhelming and upsetting for children. It is important, however, to discuss with children the changes that they can expect due to the divorce. Keep conversations about the "logistics" of the divorce (moving houses, changing schools, balancing time with each parent) short, simple, and honest. If possible, have these conversations with both parents present as a united front.
Normalize as much as possible
While it is important and sometimes relieving for children to gain an understanding about what will change due to the divorce, it is even more important to emphasize what will not change for the children (both parents will still love the children and spend time with children, keeping the same sports and other activities, staying at the same school, etc.). It is also helpful to let children know that divorce is something that many families and children deal with and that there are all different types of loving families.
Put support in place for your child
Not all children are eager to share the news about their parents' divorce with teachers and friends, maybe because of the undue shame or guilt they are feeling about the divorce. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to let children's coaches, teachers and school counselor know about the divorce. This will ensure that kids have a support system in place outside of the home and that parents will have help knowing how best to support their children. It is also a good idea to set up professional counseling to guide the family through the divorce and equip family members with the coping skills that will help make the transition a bit easier.
Make joint decisions about your legacy as parents
Even after the divorce, the goal should be to co-parent in a healthy way for the sake of the children. Come together as co-parents and talk about your family legacy. What family traditions will carry on? How will holidays and birthdays be celebrated? What values will you focus on instilling as co-parents? One great activity children coping with divorce enjoy doing is the family crest activity. Knowing that you will always be a family with the same values and traditions is very comforting for children.
For information about individual or small group support for children facing divorce, call 404-941-5437. Also, check my resource page for great books and articles about divorce and children.