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Must we tell the children the divorce is a mutual decision?
September 17, 2015
9:46 am

I realize these posts go back to 2010, but maybe it's still worth adding to the discussion if someone will read them or come back at a later time.  I feel the same way as Robin, but I would not want to turn my kids against my spouse.  Older kids will probably pick up on which parent is initiating a separation or divorce without needing to have it spelled out for them though.  You can tell them that you are splitting up because you just can't get along, but even 10-year-olds pick up on obvious clues and tidbits of conversations even when their parents are trying to be discreet about things. 

If they ask about it when they get older, maybe an honest answer would be okay if there is a clear understanding that marriages end because of things that both people do or do not do.  For example, if the wife initiated the split because she was unhappy, explain that to them but don't lay all the blame on her.  That would only have to be brought up if the kids really press the parents as to why they did not get back together or specifically, why didn't "you" want to get back together with him/her?  Say that mom and dad tried to live with each other without fighting but that after a while, it made them less able to be good parents. 

I personally don't want to resort to divorce, but I recognize that some people see it as the only way to find peace and live a healthy life.  Help the kids understand that sometimes, the best way to show your love to someone may be to let them go, and that you can still love someone even if you don't live with them.  If answers are offered without hostility or tears (because tears may cause a child to get angry with the parent who left) we may be able to be honest without making parents take sides.  I would also mention things such as how hard it was for my wife to live with me because of x, y, z and that it was too difficult for me to change those things.  That way, they'd hopefully see that my wife didn't end our marriage to be mean.  Too many parents feel vengeful after a divorce and that is very damaging because they stir up negative feelings in the children and have difficulty moving on.

September 14, 2014
3:36 pm

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October 9, 2012
2:17 pm
Michelle S.

I feel very strongly compelled to respond to this question, and my answer is definitely "Yes, make it mutual, " due to my own experience.

My ex-husband was abusive and the police removed him from our home when I called them after our 6-year-old-child had gone to sleep. She was completely unaware of the happenings and miraculously slept through the awful events of the night.

A restraining order and divorce filiings followed the very next day. I arranged for child-care so that I could take care of this business, and did not tell my daughter about anything until we both returned home that evening--but Daddy did not return home.

I NEVER said anything to her about the cause of his leaving, or the abuse. I do not recall my exact wording, but I did not place any blame on either of us and apologized to her for both of us. Essentially I said that we could not get along (she knew we argued a lot) and hence needed to live away from each other. Lots of reassurance that we both loved her, that it wasn't her fault, that we were both very sorry, all the correct things that are advised by professionals. Having him removed from the home so suddenly was the worst shock and trauma for her--and for me--but it was an unavoidable police matter in response to his physical abuse.

On the contrary, once he was allowed to have visitation with her,  he "reassured" our child without my knowledge that "Daddy still loves Mommy, but Mommy does not love Daddy. Daddy did not want to leave but Mommy made him go. Daddy does not want a divorce, Mommy does," --which was true except that he left out the crucial REASON that Mommy no longer loves Daddy--mental and physical abuse. End result of his "reassurance": My little daughter became enraged at me, became volatile in general, and physically violent toward me, to such a severe degree that I could not understand. We immediately went to counseling and it took months for her to finally be able to tell us what Daddy was telling her. That poor child was in torment, being manipulated by that man, and I could not know it because she had been keeping the words inside.

After this revelation, the counselor had to find a way to inform her that Daddy was abusing Mommy--without really "telling" her that. She was too young to put it very clearly. But we found a somewhat vague way to get the message across as gently as possible and my child finally calmed down.

Bottom line, the one who suffered in the extreme was our child. And it sure did backfire in Daddy's face. For years now I have still had to bite my tongue endlessly in preventing myself from bad-mouthing him, but my desire to keep my child as calm and happy as possible under bad circumstances overrode my desire for vindication. Now she is older and unfortunately sees him for what he is. She still goes to counseling off and on in order to learn how to cope with him. But even now when she cries and complains to me about his emotional coldness I only hug and reassure her of my love and just listen--and keep my mouth shut about him.

It just about kills me, but it is what keeps her sane.

So, to sum up, zip the lips!

October 5, 2012
4:01 pm

Thank you

June 29, 2011
11:52 am

My wife recently decided to leave with our 3 young children. I love my wife more than anything and would do anything to save our marriage. My wife says that she does not love me anymore and is not interested in saving our marriage. I have to say that I agree with you...I want my children to understand the sanctity of marriage, and that I would never want to tear apart the home that they were so happy in until now. Happy, smiling, bubbling children that loved both of their parents...that have now become glazed over, and keep asking me when they and mom are going to move back home. It's hard to be ok with saying I would agree to subjecting them to this.

March 5, 2010
2:39 pm

I recently saw your appearance on ABC-TV where you stated that it is important for both parents, no matter what the circumstances leading to deciding to divorce, to tell the children it is a mutual decision. I can understand your reason for this yet I have this question. For me, choosing to divorce is a destruction of a child's safe, protected, secure world of a stable family. I would like them to think that at least one of the most important people in their lives would not choose to do that to them but sought to preserve their world as they knew it. I do not want them to be angry at their father, I would seek to encourage their relationship as much as I am able. But somehow making it appear as if we are both willingly breaking up their home makes me feel they are left feeling that their security is not important enough to either one of their parents. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you.

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