Every month, I want to share a bit of the "blue print" that I use with individuals, couples and families.
I hope the questions from the last blog post were helpful in considering how you want your children to hear the news that your relationship is ending/has already ended. I think this is one of the last conversations a parent wants to have with his or her child. However, when children are left to wonder why their parents are moving into separate homes, they can easily become confused, scared, resentful or anxious.
One of the most important tools in discussing divorce with children is a “divorce narrative.” Simply put, this is the story of what happened to your relationship. Children need a way to organize and make sense out of what is happening to their family, and since we as humans are story-telling beings, stories often provide an avenue for understanding complex concepts and ideas.
Here is one example of a divorce narrative (for a heterosexual couple) that could be shared with a younger child:
“Do you remember how Mom and Dad met? [Either child answers or you share a brief version] We met a long time ago and fell in love and decided to get married. And then we had you! That was one of the best parts of us being together. [You may decide to share a few reflections of the day your child was born]
We really, really loved being parents, but we were having a really, really hard time loving each other. We would argue a lot and had a really hard time figuring out how to stop arguing [This is where each partner can take responsibility for certain decisions/behaviors/etc.]
I said some really mean things to Mom/Dad.
And I did some really mean things to Mom/Dad.
We tried to get some help to try and figure out how to stop fighting. But I didn’t want to make things better/we gave up trying to make things better/we decided that being married wasn’t a good idea any more.
So we’ve decided not to be married any more. We’re going to live in separate houses and do things apart now.
BUT [and this part is KEY] we will ALWAYS be your parents. That never stops or changes. Even though Moms and Dads can stop being married, they will NEVER stop being Moms and Dads. We love you so much and know that this is going to be hard to not see Mom and Dad married anymore, but we will always be here for you.”
Children need a way to organize and make sense out of what is happening to their family
That is a hard, painful story to tell. But your child needs to have a story that makes sense.
Here are a few questions to help you start crafting your own divorce narrative:
- What do you want your child(ren) to know about the time you were married?
- What do you want your child(ren) to know about why the marriage ended? (This is a perfect opportunity to take ownership of your own actions, NOT to put the other parent down. You can be real and honest without being demeaning).
- What do you want your child(ren) to know about how much you love them?
** One few important consideration: As co-parents, you may (and probably will) have different ideas about why the marriage ended. For the sake of your child(ren), can you agree on a narrative?
Next week, we’ll continue to look at some other helpful tools to use in supporting your child throughout this process.
In this with you,