How To Talk To Your Kids About Divorce
As you work through the process of divorce, you may not have cultivated the perfect way to explain your decision to your children.
The truth is, there is no one way to go about it, but we do suggest keeping it simple and making sure they know they are not to blame.
Divorces are painful and complicated but when it comes to your kids, leave them informed but not at fault.
Like many a twenty-something, I suspect, I took the news of Brad and Angelina’s divorce harder than I did that of my own parents’ breakup (I may or may not have bought a tabloid or two). If celebrities are the Greek Gods of our time, then Brad and Angie were Zeus and Hera, and whatever crazy stories we might hear about them from time to time, they would always remain the king and queen, a mother and father figure as stable as they were unpredictable. But down here in the real world, perhaps the most surprising thing about the Brangelina decoupling is that it was so long in coming. Anybody who has ever had a child, let alone six, or anyone who has been a child (which is anybody reading this), should know that an unstructured, multinational living situation, combined with world-class humanitarianism—and, oh yes, high-flying Hollywood careers—would have to be something of a myth.
When my mother told me she and my father were separating, I can’t really say I gave a damn. I’m sure that declaration is worth a few dozen therapy hours, but in that moment, at eight years old, I was far too absorbed in taking out my cornrows than I was in listening to my mother explain how “things might be a little different from now on.” That was that, and the next day I found myself sitting with my father at the Our Name Is Mud children’s pottery studio painting what, if memory serves, was a Passover goblet for Elijah.
And then after that I totally disassociated and gave myself amnesia. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, it’s kind of cool how quickly a child’s self-protective reflexes will swing into action. It’s not as if I didn’t understand what was happening, I just wasn’t ready to care (typing that sentence, honest to God, just made my entire life make sense. Note to self: Send form letter to the Jolie-Pitt offspring ASAP.) The less I acknowledged it, the less it existed as my reality. Because—I’ve corroborated this theory with zero people—kids aren’t interested in being unhappy and they’re definitely not interested in their parents’ unhappiness. They’re interested in training bras and Minecraft and drinking caffeinated soda. Above all, they’re interested in preserving the illusion that their parents are superhuman—or at any rate, free of any human needs that might compromise their children’s security.