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My wife and I have been married for coming up close to 14 years now. We have 3 children, aged 12, 9 and 5. Recently, she started seeing another man and called it quits on me and the kids. She moved out to be with her new guy.

I've been telling the kids that their mom is staying with her aunt. This has worked for a few weeks, but they've been getting more and more antsy and asking lots of questions.

I got an envelope the other day with the details of the divorce filing. I got angry and ripped up the envelope and its contents and threw it into the rubbish bin.

Unfortunately, my eldest son found the pieces. He was in his room with his brothers, in tears, with a bunch of torn paper strewn across the floor. I'm now trying to console my kids as they've just found out that their mom has left us without a word. My eldest and youngest have locked themselves in their room for the last few hours.

What can I do?

  • This just happened to me 3 days ago. 16 years, 2 children. I am very sorry my friend. – AKWF Sep 8 '17 at 13:53
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Apologize to them.

This reaction may be even more about you lying to them, than about the separation. Kids are not stupid, and may have suspected something is up already. Put yourself into their situation: the world that they know is falling apart and every one is being dishonest with them. They NEED someone to trust.

You will have to rebuild that trust. First step is to acknowledge that you did wrong, then promise them to be open and honest about this going forward, and then follow through.

I sympathize with you: this is a horrible situation to go through. But still, you consider the needs of your kids too. That includes figuring out how to talk about this, making clear plans about their future that they can understand, and than sticking to this.

It would be best, if you and your soon to be ex wife can work together on this. Set your difference apart when it comes to dealing with your children. They should not be part of your quarrels, and it's possible to work together on this while living otherwise separate lifes.

For better or for worse, this will be part of their life going forward and it's pointless and even more harmful to pretend that it isn't.

  • I don't think he needs to apologize. It isn't his fault. He was still hoping that the situation will fix itself. The mother should come and explain the situation. She is the one who is making this mess! – Grasper Aug 29 '17 at 18:30
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    He doesn't need to apologize for hiding what's going on and lying about the mother's whereabouts? – Acire Aug 29 '17 at 19:09
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    The poster isn't suggesting he apologize to them for what their mother did. It was for hiding the situation from them. Yes, he may have been hoping he wouldn't have to, but it turned out that he was wrong. I'm sure he had their best interests at heart, but to them it would seem like just another betrayal. People who can't apologize for their mistakes are people with their own set of issues. As @Hilmar said, his kids need to know that there is one person in their life that they can trust. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Aug 29 '17 at 19:15
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Well this is devastating information for most children to receive. Learning so by reading papers is also an additional sting and sorting out they have been either directly lied to or deceived is also another layer. So what you have to follow up with is each layer.

The first order of business is explaining your lack of telling them. I do understand that we can be so very hurt ourselves that finding words to talk our children is difficult. Perhaps you had hoped initially to work through it and then they would "never need to know". I delayed the truth once via lying with my kids. I still have never felt good about it. They don't know this, but we had a pet pass away at Christmas time as we ere preparing for the passing of a close family member on hospice, etc. There was a lot going on. In hindsight, I think I did that for me more than them. I had more than I could manage happening and I didn't know how to be there for them while I was struggling to be enough for myself. I told myself then I was doing it for them. I don't ever think I was. I did tell them later, I just delayed so I had time to get my bearings. I say that all to say I can understand why you would delay telling. I am sure you are also struggling and not sure how to manage the current situation. So I would tell them that. I would tell them that you are also hurting deeply and that you weren't sure what to say or how to tell them. Tell them you were going to tell them and are sorry that this is how they found out. Tell them you should have told them to begin with and you are sorry that you didn't.

As parents we make so many mistakes. What generally will save us is in being willing to own it. Tell them it is okay if they are angry with you. It is okay to be angry that you have been lied to.

Make sure in answering questions or making statements you never vilify mom. I don't care if she is 100% at fault, she is half of who they are and it is okay if they opt to forgive her. I don't mean right now. I mean now and always. Parents should not say bad things about the other parent to children. Tell them it is okay to be angry with people you love. It's okay to be angry with her, with you, with life. It is part of processing the situation. Mostly listen to them. You don't have to agree or have amazing words to offer if you can simply allow a child to feel heard.

There is counseling specifically for this sort of issue. It would be an excellent idea to contact one and find out what you can set up to do with your children so that you can help them sort through their feelings and you can sort through yours. It may also be advisable to find a support group for yourself. There are online communities and groups that actually meet up. Lots of people have been where you are. It can be very helpful to talk to others that have been through it and can offer meaningful support and advice on moving forward.

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As you are grieving right along with your children, empathy should come easy.

Generally, the stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Throwing the letter away was denial and anger. Your kids may or may not outwardly express any emotion at all, but if they do get angry at you, realize they are only grieving and don't take it personally.

This feeling will pass. Maintain your normal routine, be sure to get lots of sleep and exercise and eat well to reduce stress and foster a sense of normalcy.

Allow and encourage your kids to express whatever it is they're feeling, anger, sadness, etc. Some kids might avoid showing emotion for a number of reasons. It can help, if you are sad, to express that to your kids, but refrain from expressing anger in front of them because that can be painful for them to witness.

National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663

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