Expert tips for telling your children about your divorce

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

8268252_mlTelling your children about a divorce will always be difficult. But the conversation also provides an opportunity for parents: the first chance to practice co-parenting together in the face of the split.

In order to achieve the best outcome, we suggest that both parents independently consult expert resources on telling kids about divorce. These resources may include family therapists, individual counselors and books. Then, the spouses can have an informed conversation with one another, using the ideas found to formulate a plan for the conversation with their children.

Here are a few basic ideas to get the conversation going.

1. Give some thought to the setting.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Kevin Arnold, Ph.D, points out that most children will remember the moment that they learn of the divorce for a long time. Arnold suggests thinking carefully about the where and the when of telling kids about the divorce.

2. Stick to a simple message.
The American Association of Pediatrics suggests that messy details may encourage children to feel that they can or should become involved in fixing the problem. Choose a few simple sentences to announce the divorce, reassuring children that it is not their fault and reinforcing the fact that they are still completely loved.

3. Consider having several talks.
Like adults, children need time to process information. Shirley Thomas and Dr. Robi Ludwig, Psy.D., authors of a co-parenting book, suggest planning a few short conversations instead of one long conversation.

The focus of the conversations will differ depending on the age of your children. We suggest that parents consider what types of information are appropriate at what age, and what concerns children of different ages are likely to have.

Older children and children with friends who have divorced parents may be especially concerned about the process of divorce. An agreement to use divorce mediation allows parents to truthfully reassure children that the divorce process will be handled as calmly and as cooperatively as possible.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

How to get a reluctant spouse to try mediation

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

14619487_mlSometimes, both partners in a divorcing couple agree that divorce mediation is the right choice. After all, it saves money, time and sanity.

But many times, one of the two spouses will resist mediation. It may be that the reluctant spouse is resisting the divorce in general. Or, one of the spouses may be highly emotional and feel like hiring a lawyer in order to create pain and difficulty for the other spouse.

The trouble with this last is that by the end of the long and expensive litigated divorce process, both parties will be feeling that pain and difficulty.

Here are a few steps that anyone can take to encourage a reluctant spouse to try mediation.

1. Give your spouse some time to digest the idea.
Often, the announcement that you want to try mediation is the first time that the divorce becomes real for your spouse. This can be true even if your spouse initiated the split. If your first attempt is met with rejection, give your spouse some time and space. Calmly try again later.

2. Provide some objective information.
Your spouse is more likely to agree to mediation if he or she feels that it is a choice, not a mandate. Gather basic information from several local mediators. Contact several lawyers and ask about retainer fees and the cost of litigated divorce. Talk to any friends who have been through litigated divorce or mediated divorce, and ask them about the cost and the duration of the process. The facts will speak for themselves. Mediation will seem less like your agenda and more like the logical choice.

3. Focus on the kids.
Numerous available resources explain the toll that litigated divorce can take on children. Your spouse may be angry and upset with you, but it is unlikely that he or she is mad at your children as well. By explaining the benefits of mediated divorce for your children, you may be able to shift your spouse’s attention away from his or her own emotions and toward the long-term realities of his or her choices.

Mediators can often provide extra resources and help for dealing with a reluctant spouse. Contact a divorce mediator to discuss the issues you are having. Find out if the mediator has information packets, seminars or other information that can help your spouse give mediation some objective consideration.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”