My parents just let us know that, after 36 years of marriage, they are getting a divorce. What is the best way to tell our kids about this? Should we tell them or should they tell them?
Research at the University of Southern California, has found that half of all American grandchildren have at least one set of divorced grandparents. That’s right, 50%. While divorce has become a common occurrence in our society it doesn’t make it any easier to tell kids that their grandparents are divorcing.
The first question is who is going to be present. For a variety of reasons it’s usually best if both the parents and the grandparents are present and that the grandparents speak for themselves. If this isn’t possible it will be up to both of you to tell them.
It’s most helpful to meet in a place that is safe, comfortable and familiar to the children and to set aside ample time so you aren’t interrupted or rushed.
It’s essential that you prayerfully prepare your minds and hearts for what will be a very sad and emotional conversation. Feel free to acknowledge your own sadness and let them express whatever emotions they have. If tears come that’s okay.
Depending on the ages of your children you may have to unpack what the word “divorce” means. Don’t give too much information. Only share what is necessary and keep your explanations as simple and brief as possible. Rehearse what you’re going to say, who is going to say what, and how you might answer some of their questions. Let them know they are free to ask any question they want but remember that you don’t have to have an answer for every question.
Listen to what they’re saying and for what they might not know how to say. Acknowledge whatever concerns they have and whatever emotions they express. Let them know that this is about their grandparents and not about them. Remind them that they are still loved, valued and cared for.
Be honest with them and don’t pretend that this isn’t significant and that there won’t be any real changes in their lives. It is significant and there will be changes. You may want to discuss some of the changes with them. Let them know they’ll still be seeing their grandparents but maybe not at the same time.
The fact of their grandparents getting a divorce often causes kids to be concerned about their parents’ marriage so take time to reassure them of your love for and commitment to each other. Close with a word of prayer thanking God for His goodness, kindness and faithful love and for His promise to never leave us or forsake us.