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Do you have a couple who is preparing to divorce? Do they struggle with how to tell their children about it? How have you responded to their questions in the past?
On this track, we will discuss Telling the Children About Divorce. This will include telling together, headlining, the "now", and why. As you listen, think of your clients going through divorce and their children. How do your techniques regarding explaining divorce to children compare with those presented on this track?
Jason, age 35 and Yasmin, age 33... came to me about getting a divorce. Jason stated, "As you know, we’ve been struggling with our marriage for a long time…I think we were madly in love with the emphasis on the ‘madly’ and not the ‘love’…" Yasmin added, "I think we both agree that getting married was an impulsive mistake." Jason stated to me, "Basically…we feel it’s better to have a good divorce instead of a bad marriage…and we’d like to do that not just for us, but for our kids."
Yasmin asked, "I’m concerned the changes will probably be an emotional crisis for them. How do we even begin to tell them?" How would you have answered this question? I answered, "Especially when your children are involved, you will want to try and rise above your adult differences and act with integrity throughout the divorce process. You will want to make a concerted effort to minimize the number of risk factors that can increase your children’s mourning." Jason replied, "Well, that’s no small task!" I stated, "You’re right, but it could end up being an essential one." Yasmin asked, "Fine. How do we start?"
Guideline #2 - Headlining
Guideline #3 - The "Now"
"If the question is about the other parent, you might agree to a response such as, ‘We have agreed not to answer questions on the other parent’s behalf. It’s ok to ask your mom or dad about it directly.’ Remember, the two of you are getting a divorce, not the kids. The kids need to have a meaningful and healthy relationship with both of you." Yasmin stated, "And we can tell them that despite the things we couldn’t work out in our marriage, we can make a decent co-parenting relationship, right?" I replied, "Absolutely. The marriage may have ended, but the family has not."
Yasmin asked, "What if they don’t ask questions? Our 8-year-old, Leah, is very quiet, and I’m afraid she’ll just take the situation silently and never express her feelings about it…" I stated, "You might consider bringing things up when you sense that Leah has an unspoken concern. Listen carefully for comments that might contain questions she might be afraid to ask. She might ask you, for example, ‘How could you and Daddy just stop loving each other?’ That could really cover up the feeling, ‘I’m afraid you’ll stop loving me, too.’"
Jason stated, "Thanks…this is going to be really difficult…but I feel like we have a game plan now. Is there anything else you would suggest, after we’ve told them?" I stated, "Only two things. First don’t be afraid to be repetitive. What children might have blocked out at the onset of their grief might be better understood at a later time. Second, whether they ask or not, kids need to hear that they still have a family, both of you love them and that they are not the cause of the divorce."
Do you have a Jason or a Yasmin? How are they planning to tell their children about getting divorced? What suggestions have you made to them? Might playing this track be helpful?
On this track, we discussed Telling the Children About Divorce. This included telling together, headlining, the "now" and why?.
On the next track, we will discuss letting children mourn. This will include the grief of good-bye, reorganizing their lives and sharing sorrow with peace.
Evidence-Based Counseling Interventions with Chidren of Divorce:
- Connolly, M. E. and Green, E. J. Evidence-Based Counseling Interventions with Chidren of Divorce: Implications for Elementary School Counselors.
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