How to Tell Your Kids
By Laura Giles
1) Children of the marriage (COM) should be told by you before they hear it from someone else. If they have two parents living together, it should be done in the presence of both parents.
2) Select a time that is neither good nor bad. If you pick a time when things are not going well, it could be too overwhelming. If you choose a time where things are great, kids may begin to feel that whenever things are going well, something always happens to spoil it.
3) Think about what you are going to say. If you are doing this as a team, discuss it in advance so that you don’t have any surprises and you can support what is said. Anticipate questions and be ready with answers. Provide information in a way that doesn’t blame. Your kids will likely borrow their attitude about the situation from you, so if you have subtle or raging hostility about this, so will they. If you are open and matter-of-fact about it, there will be less drama.
4) Dealing with teens is harder because they understand issues of sex and betrayal and will factor that in, even if you don’t speak of it (and you shouldn’t). They are also going through their own trauma of discovering identity and sex. You may want to speak to teens separately as they may have questions or something to say that is not appropriate for younger ears to hear.
5) If the COMs are younger, you may want to have books they can read about family diversity. There are many books for parents of adopted kids and those living in homosexual families. Although they are not specifically targeted to your situation, it may help children to get the idea that there are many family configurations and that they are “okay.”
6) Be willing to have conversations about it as the issue arises. Kids need to talk about it. If parents encourage that open dialog, it will do a lot towards getting through this in a healthy way and nurturing the parent/child relationship. It also dispels any hidden fears that you might not know about.
7) Be open to having professional help for the children or yourself if needed. This isn’t easy.
8) Have a plan. You will feel more in control and will handle things better if you have an idea of when to tell, what to tell, and how you are going to handle it. Do a role play with someone you trust. This is too big a deal to just wing it. If you can collaborate with the other bio parent, it’s probably a good idea. You don’t want to take on a decision this big without his/her involvement because if that person can give a lot of support while the child is in that household.
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