Often following a significant break up, like last week’s divorce announcement by Hollywood power couple Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, a common question is “What to tell kids during a break up?”
Birmingham Maple Clinic Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Carrie Krawiec, compiled a few pointers for parents.
1) Do not assume it’s a “one and done” conversation but invite your children to ask questions as they come up. And bring up little parts of the conversation over time.
2) Just because they ask a question doesn’t mean you have to answer–or answer immediately. Buy yourself time to plan a meaningful answer by saying “That’s such a good question, I’d like to think about a response…tell me more about how that question came in your mind” or ask more questions such as “What you are hoping my answer may be?” or “Do you have an idea of what I might say?”
3) Tailor the information you give to each child by age, maturity level, previous ability to handle difficult conversations.
4) Ask your child for permission to talk about the break up and if they decline problem solve when may be a good time or invite them to come to you when they are feeling like talking (But don’t leave the ball forever in their court, bring it up occasionally).
5) Help your child turn the “bad time story” into a “good time ending” by drawing pictures, make a list of how might things be better for them, for the family, or making a book with a happy ending in the future that hasn’t happened yet.
6) Let your child know you are “Ok” and though you may be sad you have someone to talk to or you have your own coping tools so it’s ok to be sad but they don’t have to worry about you.
7) Normalize that they may still have good feelings about the other person and help them if possible to foster a relationship with that person even if it doesn’t include you.
If your family is coping with a break-up or divorce individual or family therapy may be useful to help develop adaptive communication and coping skills. To schedule an appointment visit www.birminghammaple.com or call (248) 646-6659.