This article was published in the Genesee Valley Parent Magazine, April 2003.

Mom, Dad, Are You Getting A Divorce?

By Carolyn T. Bryson, Family Mediator

Dear Mom and Dad,

There is something going on and I wish you would tell me what it is. Even though you won’t tell me anything, it looks like you are getting a divorce. Do you think I can’t hear you fighting and crying when I am in my room? Do you think I don’t notice the blankets downstairs when I get up in the morning? Am I the reason you don’t love each other anymore? I am scared. I wish you would tell me what is going on. I am hurt that you think it isn’t necessary to tell me; but I can see that something is terribly wrong. Tell me the truth. Please, what is happening to our family?



The manner in which you and your spouse handle the initial separation will affect how well your children adjust. Keep in mind that children are participants of the divorce process, as well. Children can sense emotional tension between parents. They can sense that you are upset even when you say that things are fine – your actions, facial expressions, and tone of voice may communicate something other than what you are saying verbally. Not telling your children you are divorcing may intensify their trauma, isolate them further, or even worse, cause them to blame themselves for your unhappiness.

Nurturing children during the separation process is not easy. Your own loss and pain can be overwhelming. Yet, a positive restructuring of family life, new routines and traditions after divorce can result in satisfying new relationships and improved communication skills. Moreover, when freed from difficult marriage tensions, divorced parents often do a better job of parenting than they did while married. It is important to set aside intense feelings toward your spouse and focus on what your children need.

Tell the children, before one of you moves out

When a decision is made to divorce or separate, plan a family meeting to help you communicate, together, to your children what is happening. Plan what you will say, so that it will help decrease the level of anxiety. Without blaming the other parent, and in a non-judgmental tone of voice, explain to them why you are getting a divorce. Assure the children that you love them. Tell them who will be moving out, when, and where that parent will be living. Explain to them the initial parenting schedule and transportation arrangements. Many parents post a Family Calendar to list parenting schedules, school schedules, holiday arrangements, and other weekly and monthly plans so that their children know what to expect.

Plan in advance, what to tell the children…together

Telling your children, together, about the divorce and what the arrangements will be, will help your children understand that the parents have discussed and reached decisions themselves. If one parent has already moved out, the entire family should still have a family meeting, including that parent. It is important not to tell your children about the divorce, or to move out of the marital residence around a major holiday. Doing so may eventually cause children, in later years, to link a holiday with a negative and emotional experience. For older children, tell them ahead of time that there will be a family meeting. Tell younger children just prior to the meeting so as to minimize their anxieties. Don’t give them details about the meeting ahead of time; just tell them that you will answer their questions during the meeting.


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