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The art of apologizing to your kids for a divorce

Most parents who divorce feel some amount of guilt about the impact that the break-up is having or will have on their children. At one or more points in the process, they may feel the need to apologize to their kids. However the child custody agreement turns out, both parents can end up feeling guilty.

One family law attorney says that it's fine to apologize to your children for the divorce or for something that you did or said if you feel the need. However, before you do, she notes, it's important to look at just what you're apologizing for, why you're apologizing and whether you have any ulterior motives before you do.

If an apology is overdone or is made for the wrong reasons, it can end up hurting your kids even further, even if it makes you feel better. There are a few important things to keep in mind before you apologize to your kids.

First, remember that the apology should make them feel better -- not necessarily you. Own up to whatever you did, but don't expect them to forgive you. Let them react in whatever way they feel.

Don't use your apology as an attempt to tell them what "really happened" or to blame your ex. Simply apologize for whatever you did and leave it at that.

Don't over-apologize. The more that you say you're sorry, the more you remind them of something that's probably painful for them as well.

It's fine to say that you're sorry for all of the pain that the divorce caused the kids and leave it at that. You don't need to relive every bad move you made or hurtful thing that you unintentionally did.

Until you can apologize to your kids without falling into any of these traps, it's probably best to hold off. If you're still harboring anger and resentment against your ex that you can't help but express to your children, it may be helpful to seek some counseling. This can help both you and your children move on to a new life after the divorce.

Your family law attorney should be able to recommend a therapist and/or support group in your community to help you deal with residual anger and develop a new, healthy, post-divorce life with your children.

Source: Huffington Post, "Want to Apologize to Your Kids for Your Divorce? Here's How NOT to Screw It Up," Christina Pesoli, Aug. 26, 2015

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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