Here's how you don't break it to the kids. You don't look at them and say, "You know what little Johnny, little Susie, your mother hates your father now so we are leaving him. You will get to see that idiot two weekends a month from now on, and that's it." Break the news like that and you can alienate your kids forever.
I am a product of a divorced home. Kids, no matter how old they are, they dream. If you're going through a divorce while your kids are young, their biggest dream is to keep Mommy and Daddy together. Even early on, children want to have the perfect family.
I remember when I was a kid growing up, I knew from a very early age that my parents weren't really getting along. My mom always looked really bored. My dad was just pretty excited that my mom was hot, so I don't think he cared. But I knew my mom was lacking something. I knew she was lacking and craving a deeper connection with a man. I just sensed the way that she just was -- the way that she was with my dad and how she acted.
Several years down the road, my parents finally got divorced. I was 19 at the time, and I remember the way my mom broke it to me. My girlfriend at the time and I were breaking up, and my mom said, "Well, sometimes even people who have been together for 20 years choose to end their relationship because they no longer can be together."
That's how my mom broke it to me. And even at that age, knowing for a while that my parents were not meant for each other, I still lashed out. I chose to get angry at my mom, and I took that time to try to bond with my dad instead. "I want to bond with Dad now," I decided. "I am going to go to his new house, and listen to him and how upset he was." I remember taking his side in the whole thing, being angry with my mother for splitting up the marriage.
I was in college. I remember my grade point average that semester completely tanked. I failed classes. I didn't care. I was drinking, I was partying, I was out of control. I was doing all of this even though I was old enough to understand what was going on. I wasn't a little kid, but looking back now I still sensed it when I was a little kid.
Kids really have this picture-perfect home built up in their minds. They want Mommy and Daddy to love one another, that's how it's supposed to be. But the second Mommy and Daddy are no longer together, they immediately assume that they as kids must be flawed. They think the divorce happened because of them.
As parents, we need to break it to our children and explain to them what divorce is really all about. Divorce happens when two people can no longer live together, but yet they still love each other. They still respect each other and still honor one another, but the relationship just can't work out. It's so important to communicate that as parents we don't love you any less. I think people use kids as pawns in divorces way too often. I have seen people actually alienate their own children from themselves because of divorce.
The bottom line is you have to break it to your kids, but you have to tell them why and you have to make sure that, no matter what age they are at, they understand that they did not cause the divorce. Even if starting a family created so much stress on your marriage, and the marriage was much better before the kids, never break the news that way. Kids are tough on a marriage. Kids are stressful. Kids kill intimacy between husband and wife a lot of the time. Bu that doesn't mean the kids need to kill the marriage. If you think they did kill the marriage, you've got to change the way you see things and realize that it was you who killed the marriage. It was you who allowed the children to weigh too heavy on the relationship.
You really don't want to screw up your own children, especially not with this sensitive topic. The beauty of children are their idealistic viewpoint, the way they look at the world from a place of purity and perfection. Everything is brand new and exciting. They don't have the experience yet of adulthood, they are not tainted.
If you are getting divorced, break it to them gently and be honest with them: "Mom and Dad are divorcing because Mom and Dad can no longer live together. Yet we still love each other as people."
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