This article was published in the Genesee
Valley Parent Magazine, April 2003.
Dad, Are You Getting A Divorce?
By Carolyn T. Bryson, Family Mediator
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?
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
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.
the children, before one of you moves out
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.
in advance, what to tell the children…together
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.