A personal email was recently sent to Devon and I concerning having that dreaded “talk” with the kids. You know, the “Mommy and Daddy Are Getting Divorced” conversation? It was a new process for me to work through in answering Inquire-ee. I had to think long and hard back to those days. That time was kind of a blur, but I think we did some things right. Here’s what I wrote to her.
This email will be a bit of a process for me because no one has ever asked us your very practical question. In fact, I will definitely be blogging about it very soon. I am thankful you felt comfortable reaching out to us. I will be cc’ing Devon when I’m done with this in case he thinks of anything else to add.
I don’t know your situation, of course, so I can only speak from our own. Here are some main points that I hope are helpful.
1. Our biggest concern was making sure that each of the kids knew that they could ask questions at anytime during our process. That being said, we did NOT tell them that Devon was gay. That was difficult for me personally, because it was the ultimate reason we were getting divorced and the bitter side of me wanted them to know. I didn’t, thankfully, because Devon needed to tell them when he was ready. If they asked us something that would lead them to specific “why” questions, we told them that we would definitely let them know the reasons when we were ready. We assured them that we would, but the adult nature of it needed to wait until Mommy and Daddy were both ready to tell them. They seemed to accept that answer, with the expectation that they would eventually find out in due time. We followed through with our promises.
2. We always, to the best of our ability, presented a united front. We sat next to each other when telling them things at our various family meetings. We made sure the kids were cuddled up next to us when we spoke. Sometimes we would go on a picnic. Sometimes we’d just be in our living room. Never in an overtly public place. We still do this and it gives the kids reassurances that we can all be together when it is necessary. Let me tell you, there were times when I bit the bullet and didn’t exactly love it, but it was for the kids, and so I did.
3. Devon and I always discussed in person (sometimes over the phone) some of the exact verbiage we were planning on using. If an email is necessary for you, that’s ok, too. It’s just good to practice meeting and getting used to talking together before you speak with the kids. Be sure to decide who will start off the conversation and what you will say to begin. Let it be somewhat organic from that point on. Also, for yourself, you should write brief talking points you want to be sure to say. It will help you to not miss your most important items. I hope your spouse will do the same, but you can only control yourself. Be the best example you can. If he or she senses you trying to control the situation, there will be defensiveness. Do your best not to be defensive yourself.
4. Keep the focus on the kids. Make sure that you both look them in the eye. Most importantly, tell them specifically that they have done nothing wrong, nor will they ever in the future, to be the cause of the divorce. It’s seriously the most important thing. I guarantee in their simple childlike minds that’s what they’re thinking. Reassure them and continue throughout your various processes to do so.
5. Are you living in separate households currently? If so, reassure them that not much will be changing except that you and Daddy will have some personal and specific stuff to deal with. Be honest with them when things need to brought up, but not too much info. Kids usually ask questions when they’re ready to hear the answers. Too much info and they won’t be able to process things in a healthy manner.
Interjection: I liken this to the three times when each of my kids asked me: “Where do babies really come from?” They asked me this at different times, and each time I gauged what they really wanted to know. One wanted to know how babies were created. One wanted to know where babies came out and how. One simply didn’t know what the hell he was asking. I gave them each different answers. Later, they asked follow up questions when they felt the need. They knew I’d be honest with them, and today, they all know that babies are born out of the belly button and that kissing causes pregnancy. Okay. So please continue with the quoted email.
6. During your talk they will probably have questions that you weren’t expecting. Just answer them as truthfully as you can (without giving too much info).
7. Both of you can ask them a day or so later if they have any other questions that may have popped up in their minds. Talk with them each separately. You will be surprised about how deep their thinking can be.
Keep in mind that I’m not a counselor. This is what we did and it worked for us. It started us off on the same footing and our children have adjusted really well. Some of it may not apply to your situation, but my hope it that you can find a few nuggets of wisdom in my words.
When are you planning on telling them? I would love to have an update on how it goes.
Thanks again for writing us and giving us inspiration to continue helping others toward amicable relationships.
Blessings to you, your spouse and your children.
Devon didn’t think of anything else to add, so I guess it was spot-on. My kids, whom I consult with daily regarding our blog posts, also felt the same as Devon once I asked them about it. They are nothing if not honest.
Take what you can from that email. I think we did a lot of things right and how we handled The Dreaded Talk was one of them.
Questions to answer in your comments:
1) If you have kids, have you told them that you’re getting a divorce yet? How did they react? What did you say and is there anything you wish you had done differently?
2) What information was helpful to you in this post?
3) What advice would you give to others who are about to broach this important topic?