As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to have a good childhood and grow up to be useful members of society. Therefore, as parents, our instincts makes us think of our children first in the things that we do. So if you are in a failing marriage, and are seriously considering or have already decided to file for divorce, should you be upfront and honest about the situation, or should you lie to your kids about it?
First off, lying is a strong word. In this context, I don’t mean that as a bad thing. We are thinking of the impact it will have on our children, therefore we are considering what’s best for them. Our intentions are good. Being honest with your children may sound like the ‘right’ thing to do, and we might lie because we want to protect them. But we have to remember that they are children after all. They are young and are naturally curious. Lying to them might work now, but as they grow up and realise what’s happening, it might be difficult to convince them otherwise.
Whatever we say or explain to them will have a stronger impact on them, and they might see things differently from us. Therefore, we have to be extremely careful with our choice of words, and be prepared for the kinds of questions they might ask (which can be very tricky).
2 likely outcomes could happen when you are honest with them : They might accept it and sympathize with you, or they start to resent you and your partner. Because they are children, their behaviours and reactions are very unpredictable and can be very difficult to prepare for. This is a reason why some parents choose to keep the situation on the low until they are ready.
If your child accepts the situation and handles it well (he/she doesn’t get angry or throw tantrums), then consider yourself lucky. Not many children are fully able to comprehend and understand what a divorce is, or what it means for them.
On the other hand, if you think your child might react totally opposite to the above, then it might be wise of you to delay informing them of the situation. Furthermore, if you are still caught up in the other aspects of divorce (such as appointments with divorce lawyers, sorting out your financials, making arrangements etc.) then of course it is best to have this talk another time.
However, it is still important to sit all of them down, so you and your partner can address the situation. According to Divorce Source, a father’s presence is important for a child’s development because ‘the less of a role the father plays in his son or daughter’s life, the more negative the psychological effects of divorce on the child will be’.
So, should you inform your child?
My straightforward answer would be ‘it depends’. Your situation, your children and your parenting style are all unique to you. So it is almost impossible to give a straight answer. If you are leaving your partner because they had an affair (which is one of the most common reasons for divorce in Singapore), how do you explain that to your child? More importantly, would you want to explain it to them?
If you want to be honest with them, do seriously consider the impact it would have on them. Try your best to give an answer that is appropriate to their age. Even so, answering only when asked and giving the right amount of answers is key. Do not reveal more than is necessary as you do not want them to overthink. And importantly, do not talk badly about your partner, as it can damage the relationship they have with the children.
If you decide to delay this talk with your children, do remember that it can affect the level of trust once they grow older and find out. It’s about finding the right balance and making your child understand your situation. Honesty can work but only if it’s done right.
As a final thought, it is always vital that you assess your situation first before sitting down with your children and talking about divorce. For some, it may be best to be honest with them. For others, it may not be the right time due to differing circumstances. However, it is always better to tell your children before they find out for themselves, because the years of trust will be shaken if they do so on their own accord.
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