Going through a divorce is emotionally painful, even if you know it’s the best decision for you and your family. You may want to shield your children from your negative feelings, as any parent naturally wants to protect their children, and you may fear unintentionally forcing your child to choose sides.
However, there are reasons to consider being honest with your children about the pain of a breakup, whether it’s with their parent or a new partner post-divorce. A cognitive psychologist recently shared her experience discussing a breakup with her children, resisting the urge to protect them from her pain. She decided she wanted to model for them what it’s like to experience loss and grief, and that the emotions that come with are natural.
Focus on the good
However, this doesn’t mean she shared all the gritty details with her children or bad mouthed her ex-partner. Studies indicate that how people talk about breakups can affect the pain they feel, and when someone discusses a former love with appreciation and gratitude, the suffering isn’t as intense.
When she talked to her children, she talked about “how wonderful it is that special people come in and out of our lives, and just because we miss them doesn’t mean it wasn’t important or meaningful. Each and every person we love leaves a mark on our heart, and all of them together make us who we are.”
Processing your emotions
While there were certainly moments she didn’t feel that way, it allowed her to process her breakup while still parenting and helped her feel better in the long term. Her children discussed their own feelings about family and friends who are away from them or what they missed about her ex-partner. It helped her ultimately cope by adopting a positive narrative without hiding her pain.
This approach can benefit you as a parent if you break up with a new partner, or even you are currently the midst of your own divorce. It can help you process the emotions of your new life and have a positive attitude, which could put you in a better position to co-parent post-divorce. It can open opportunities for your children to talk honestly about their own sense of loss during a divorce and be more emotionally healthy.
Your children are bound to experience their own heartbreak in their lives, one way or another. Modeling for them how to process that grief and move forward can benefit you and them in the long term.