My wife and I separated 6 months ago. I told the kids it was temporary. I truly believed we’d get back together. Now we’ve decided to divorce. The kids are going to feel like I lied to them. How do we break the news and keep their trust?
-Keeping their trust is important!
Dear Keeping Their Trust Is Important
I agree with you 100%. Life can be very difficult for kids growing up. Having loving parents that you trust helps more than you can imagine.
The breakup of a family can be one of the toughest experiences for kids. For all of us, change is difficult. Kids are no exception. You told your kids what you believed to be true, and it may have helped them to deal with the initial change in the family. Tell them the truth again and focus on the possible impact to them. Kids often believe that they are to blame when negative happens in their life – including divorce. It’s important that they know this was nobody’s fault. If you can truthfully share that you and your soon to be ex-wife will always love each other, it will help to establish that you will never stop loving them. Let them know how much you both love them! I want to focus more on your central question, but first, I want to provide some resources that can provide helpful information overall when talking to kids about an impending divorce.
How to Tell Kids About a Divorce
How to Tell Your Kids
Now let’s focus on keeping their trust. This is a good time to embrace your own imperfection and model it for your kids. Tell them you were wrong. Let them know, that just like them, you both wanted so much to keep the family together. You tried, but in the end you both decided that you are better off being friends, and that includes living apart from each other. Rehearse and prepare with their mother how you will break the news, and what is important to highlight, to insure you are on the same page.
Kids may wonder, whether or not they verbalize it, that if you and your ex no longer want to live together, it is then possible that you or your ex might someday decide that you’d be better off living apart from them too. It’s important to address that unspoken question. I would suggest going back to when they were born and sharing the start of your relationship. Many new parents, including me, felt that their heart expanded when their child(ren) was born. It’s a love unlike any other. Share this with them, how unique a parent’s love is. This parental love usually includes putting your kids needs first. All other loving relationships are built on putting the needs of both people first. As kids grow up and become adults, these relationships will also evolve into emphasizing the equal needs of both. Let them know that you want them to live with you as long as they want to live with you and that your special bond is unbreakable.
The love and concern so apparent in your question, is the key to keeping your kids trust in the long term. Basing your conversation in honesty, and answering your children’s unanswered questions may be tough, but your joint focus on them and their feelings will help them to understand and accept the divorce, while continuing to feel secure in their relationships with both of you.