As much as I love my life now, and was happy when my divorce was finalized and I could finally close that chapter, ending my marriage was incredibly hard. Not just for me, but for my kids, too. They had questions and I tried my best to answer each and every one of them honestly. Unfortunately, more than a few people thought talking to my kid about my divorce was OK. For the record, it's not.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I think that my divorce is something my kids should feel ashamed about, or something I shouldn't discuss in front of them, because I totally don't. At the same time, I don't want you to put them in an awkward situation, where they feel like they have to respond to be polite or have to express loyalty to either me or my ex-husband. That's so not fair to them.
So, more often than not, the first rule of talking to my kids about my divorce is, well, don't. If you do find yourself in a situation where my child has shared something with you, or asks you a question about divorce, please check with me first before you respond. And, please, only respond if it's in my children's best interest and you're not just being nosy. If you do end up in a conversation with my kids about divorce, please don't tell them how sorry you are, stigmatize divorce as a bad thing, or badmouth me or my ex-husband. Just don't.
Read on for more rules for talking to my kids about my divorce, or any kids, really. Because this is a delicate subject and every child deserve support, not shame.
Rule 1: Don't Talk To My Kid About My Divorce
Most of the time, it's not really appropriate for people to talk to kids about their parents' relationship, or the end of that relationship. But I get the feeling that people talk to my kids about my divorce to satisfy their curiosity, and not to help my kids cope with the myriad of emotions they have about it. That's not OK with me.
Rule 2: Ask Me First
If you do find yourself in a situation where you think my child needs someone to talk to about my divorce, and you think that you are the best person for the job, you need to ask me first. Remember, it's my divorce and my kids we're talking about. And, if you have questions for me, ask me. Don't ask my kids.
Rule 3: Keep Things Positive
Divorce has been so stigmatized in our culture that many people (including me) stay in damaging, toxic relationships way too long. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that my divorce was something bad or negative. It was necessary, and ultimately, the right choice for our family.
Rule 4: Don't Speculate
It's not your place to speculate about why or how my ex-husband and I got divorced. It's just not. It's none of your business, and not your story to tell. It certainly isn't something you should talk about with my kids.
Rule 5: Don't Answer Their Questions
It's likely that my kids have questions about why I divorced their father. Over the years they've inquired, and I've usually been able to give them answers. There are times, however, when I can't give them answers in an age-appropriate manner, and the explanations are far too complex for them to understand.
The only answer you should really give my kids about my divorce is: "That's a great question for your mom."
Rule 6: Keep Things Simple
Focus on the facts and limit your conversation to the basics. My kids are still pretty young, so you don't want to go over their heads, or worse, to let them fill in the blanks with wrong or damaging information about my divorce.
Rule 7: Ask Yourself If You Should Say Anything At All
Most of the time, the answer to this question is probably "no." If my kids need answers, information, or support, I want to know, so I can decide how to give them what they need. In most cases, it's not really a time when it's appropriate for someone from the outside to intervene.
Rule 8: Don't Judge Me
Seriously, no matter what you think about divorce, my reasons for choosing divorce, or our family, you have never walked in my shoes. It's not your place to judge me or my parenting ability.
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