Marital problems are difficult to process even before you think about the impact those problems may have on your children. You may consider keeping everything from them for as long as possible. If not, you may struggle to decide just how much to share. Your instinct to protect your children and your need for them to understand can be in conflict.
Part of the conflict, of course, is that they may already sense that something isn’t right. How might you balance this with what you want and need them to know? None of this is easy, but you need to find balance. Deciding whether to tell your children about marital problems requires careful consideration.
What to Tell Your Kids
Although you should avoid oversharing, whatever you do tell them needs to be honest. When you lie and tell them everything is okay when it isn’t, you risk confusing them later. Don’t make up stories of happiness you aren’t feeling. If they ask questions, answer them as simply as you can. If they are angry, listen.
Before you talk about marital problems, tell your kids it is not their fault. You do not want them to blame themselves for what you are going through. Be sure to tell them you love them, and you always will.
Most importantly, do not describe your marital problems in terms of blaming the other parent. You may feel in the moment that your spouse is ruining your marriage or your life. The children are part of both of you; do not make them feel as if they have to choose sides. Admit you are having difficulties, but never ask the kids take sides.
Why They Need to Hear from You
Struggling couples often look at the pitfalls of oversharing and want to protect their children from any pain they may feel. After all, they will learn soon enough. Why not let them think everything is fine? In fact, before you decide you need a divorce, you may even believe it will be.
Believing this, though, assumes that your kids remain oblivious to your marital problems. They almost certainly know something is amiss. If you refuse to tell them anything, their minds will fill in the details. Before they have a chance to blame themselves or assume you are upset with them, sit and talk with them.
When and How to Share Your Marital Problems
This time will be important for your relationship. If you have more than one child, you should address them together. You may be tempted to speak one-on-one, but this leaves too much opportunity for mixed messages. Make sure all of them receive the same information from you.
When you talk to your children, do so at a time they can focus. Telling them in passing, before bedtime, or when you are going somewhere suggests it is not important. You should set aside any electronic devices, and insist they do the same. Make sure you have plenty of time, uninterrupted. They need to both hear and have the chance to ask questions.
Ideally, you will do this with your spouse. Even during marital problems, your children should see that together, you are their parents. Seeing you put them first will help immensely. Your children should never feel like casualties of divorce.
No one wants to see a marriage end. Talking to the kids may be difficult because it makes it feel more real. But it also shows them and each other that you care about what is best for them – a critical step forward. If you have children and are considering a collaborative divorce, contact one of the professionals at Best Legal Choices today.