A lot of things have thrown me for a loop since I first began walking through my divorce but hands-down my biggest struggle has been how much I should tell my children along the way.
My kids were about 12 and 13-1/2 when we began the separation process and they are now in their mid- to late teens. I knew their dad couldn’t just move out while I crossed my fingers and hoped they wouldn’t notice. I knew we couldn’t end up moving into a new home of our own and hope they wouldn’t ask questions.
I had to tell them something.
I’ve had to tell them many somethings along the way, as difficult and sometimes dangerous situations have arisen.
So how have I decided what to tell them? I use these three steps.
First, I pray. I ask the Spirit to guide me in whatever issue needs to be addressed. To give me the right words. To work out the timing and the place. For instance, my daughter and I can talk about anything, anywhere. But with my son, it’s best if we’re at the park playing basketball or when he’s getting his practice hours in while driving me around, and we don’t have to face each other. I will even pray to determine if both of my kids can hear what’s going on at the same time, or if the versions need to be different and therefore the talks need to happen separately.
Secondly, I ask myself what I would want to know if I were them and if I were their age. I didn’t know my parents’ divorce details until I was sixteen, and that felt too late for me to have to wait for information about my childhood and family.
Third, I’ve got this little phrase that I’ve made up for moments just like this. I shoot to be appropriately authentic. At all times, I want to tell my children the truth. And yet, a twelve-year-old can handle one version of the truth, and a twenty-one-year old can handle a fuller version of the truth. I have never lied to my children, and yet, there will be things that I intend to tell them when they’re a bit older, that they just don’t need to know now and that they just couldn’t handle now.
I do not always get this right. There have been conversations where afterwards I realize I have said too much. In those moments, I ask the Spirit to soften it, to help them process, to even forget what I’ve said if need be. And sometimes, I have not told them all that they should know to be safe and to make good decisions on their own. That can easily be remedied by having follow-up conversations.
And in all the spaces in between, I trust that Jesus will reveal to them what they need to know, when they need to know it. And this realization fills me with great relief and hope.
Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaker and a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. She led a women’s ministry in her church for ten years. She currently leads small groups, writes, and speaks to women surrounding faith, difficult marriage, domestic abuse, divorce and single parenting issues. She lives with her two teenage children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethklein.com.