Loss and separation, leaving, and disruption, all spin nightmares into the very being of children. How does a parent disclose this life trauma to a child? A style of disclosure depends on the age of a child. How one communicates to a seven-year-old, is much different than disclosing to a seventeen-year-old. For this, we will primarily focus on revealing to adolescents and upward in the age range. If there have been family meetings as part of the norm, then a family get together would not be too unusual.
I am an advocate of everyone getting together and being honest and truthful about the marital conflict, and the decision to leave. Children are usually very observant and wise. Yes, they will be hurt and upset however all too often it does not come as a huge surprise. When parents are honest, you are role modeling integrity, try to at least have that instead of possible infidelity, or other dishonest behavior.
Allow children to express, consider their feelings to a fault. Do not make this about you. Do not criticize your spouse or try to achieve emotional sides with your children. They will eventually be wise to this ugly manipulation, and it will backfire. Be prepared for emotional distance from them.
Please be very clear that each of you will be there for them for emotional support, financial support, school support, and medical concerns. Whoever is leaving home write letters or emails, to let them know you are thinking of them, they may not be ready for a phone call. Give them time.
Explain to them using analogies of their peers. How sometimes there are conflicts between two individuals that cannot be resolved. It is important to let them know there was an attempt at resolution. Not only are you disclosing a loss to them, however, but you are also teaching them a life lesson. Do not minimize the impact, yet reassure that all life traumas get better with time and BOTH of you will be there for their needs.
Be aware of your own selfish needs and your feelings of guilt. Do not let that spill onto the kids. The children come first. Make that a reality.
Disclosing divorce to children is painful, has long-lasting effects, and usually has some fallout down the road. On the brighter side, children are resilient and bounce back from life traumas; their relationship can flourish with a parent more positively. It does take work, dedication and showing up. Yes, show up for them with all their activities, and life events. Show your children that despite the divorce you will be there for them. Talk is cheap, now show it in behavior. You will not regret it.