Children and divorce in Virginia: Breaking the news

Virginia parents cannot eliminate the sting the news of their divorce will cause their children, but by taking certain steps, they may help soften the blow.

The Virginia Department of Health reports there were 29,465 divorces across the state in 2013 alone. Of those, at least 12,463 involved one or more children. For parents who make the difficult decision to get divorced, telling their kids may be one of challenging talks they will ever have to have. Although there is no way to eliminate the hurt the news will likely cause their children, there are steps parents can take to help break the news without breaking their kids' hearts.

Present a united front

It is more common for divorcing spouses to be at odds with one another during a divorce than it is for them to be on the same page. This may present challenges when it comes time to tell the kids. To help protect their children, however, it is important that they set their differences aside for this conversation. Sitting down together with their children to break the news may help provide them reassurance.

Tell all the children

For numerous reasons, parents may choose to tell older children about the end of a marriage, while leaving their younger children in the dark. However, this may lead to undue stress for the kids who feel they must keep a secret from their siblings and send the wrong message to the kids who are not told. Rather, experts suggest that parents sit down with all their children at once to break the news.

Avoid placing blame

When parents sit down to tell their children they are getting divorced, providing some details may help avoid a bit of the confusion the news may cause for their kids. In doing so, though, people should make certain they keep the message age appropriate. Further, they should refrain from placing blame for the divorce at the feet of one parent or the other. Research consistently shows that children who are exposed to significant conflict between their parents before the divorce or during the process may struggle to adjust, according to Scientific American.

Prepare for mixed reactions

Just as each child is different, so too may be their reactions to the news that their parents are getting divorced. Some may feel sad and wish things could remain the same, while others may be relieved that the conflict will finally be over. It is advisable for parents to try not to assume how their kids will react. Rather, they should do their best to allow them to experience the emotions that come, and reassure them that what they are feeling is okay.

Encourage an ongoing discussion

As the news has time to set in, children may have questions, concerns or changes in their feelings. After the initial discussion, it is recommended for parents to have follow up discussions with their kids to check in with them and see how they are coping. They should do their best to answer their children's questions as honestly as they are able as this may help quell some of their anxiety and confusion over this type of major life change.

Working with an attorney

Going through a divorce may be among the most trying experiences of their lives for families in Virginia and elsewhere. The more drawn out and embroiled the process becomes, the more upsetting it may be for those involved, particularly the children. Thus, parents who are considering a split may benefit from obtaining legal representation. A lawyer may guide them through the process, as well as negotiate settlements on their behalf.