What to Tell Your Kids about Your Marriage Counseling
All marriages have their rocky periods. Yours is no exception. You and your spouse are now in marriage counseling. What, if anything, do you tell your kids about your marriage counseling?
First, let’s acknowledge that, no matter how discreet you and your spouse think you are, your kids are likely aware that there is tension in your marriage.
Second, let’s acknowledge that “the unknown” is often more scary that any “known”.
Therefore, it is important that you and your spouse jointly talk with your kids about your commitment to your marriage and your family and that you are speaking with a counselor to help you work through some differences. You should not discuss the particulars of those differences with your kids, nor should you act or speak angrily about your spouse in front of your kids. Yours should be a message of love and reassurance. What your kids need to know is that all relationships have bumpy periods, you two are having one now, you are speaking with a counselor who is helping you two resolve your differences so that you can restore the harmony in your marriage and family, you both are committed to your marriage and family, and you both love each other and your kids very much. The specific language you use should, of course, be age-specific. Examples follow.
With grade schoolers: “You know how you and your friends fight sometimes? You have your tiffs and then you make up and all is well again, right? Well, Mommy and Daddy are having some fights like that. It happens in almost all relationships sooner or later. Anyway, we’ve decided that we would like help fixing the things we fight about, so we’ve decided to see a counselor. That’s a person whose job is to fix things for people. When we got married, we made a promise to love each other and be each other’s best friends forever, and this counselor is going to help us keep that promise. We both love you very much, and we wanted you to know what was happening. Do you have any questions for us?”
With high schoolers: “Ok, we know you’ve sensed some tension between us lately. We know you’ve seen some of your friends’ parents get divorced, and we want to be up-front with you about what’s going on here. All marriages have rocky periods from time to time . . . some people give up, and others work through those differences. We love each other very much and are committed to working things out. We’ve decided to speak with a marriage counselor: he will help us from a neutral, third-party perspective. Since he’s an expert in this area, we are confident that he will help us get on the right track. We love you very much and wanted you to know what was happening so you didn’t worry needlessly. Do you have any questions for us?”
This family discussion should occur as soon as you two make a firm decision to seek counseling. Don’t let your kids worry about the unknown any longer than necessary. Additionally, if your kids find out about family matters from a third party, or if they overhear you telling a third party, they will feel as if you are intentionally excluding them from this information that directly and vitally affects them. The result is that they will feel insecure about their circumstance.
In sum, by promptly, directly, tactfully, and lovingly addressing your marriage counseling with your kids, you will make them feel reassured of the stability of their home and family.
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