Apologizing to kids for divorce: What to say and what not to say
Apologies are complex and nuanced things. People apologize in many ways, for many different reasons – not all of them honorable. We may apologize because we are truly sorry. We might apologize to make another person feel comfortable. We may apologize to be polite. We may apologize simply to end an argument . . . the list goes on.
If made correctly and sincerely, an apology can mend deep emotional wounds. If made incorrectly or for selfish reasons, an apology could actually make things worse. In light of all this, most parents have a difficult time figuring out how to apologize to their kids for getting a divorce.
This is not to say that all parents need to apologize for divorce. But many parents see that their kids have been put in the middle of something very difficult, and they want to make amends for their part in it.
In a recent Huffington Post article, author and family law attorney Christina Pesoli offers several pieces of advice for parents who want to have this conversation with their kids. Her over-arching advice: Make sure you have the right motives, and make sure that your apology conveys only those motives.
Here are ways in which parents can easily get an apology “wrong:”
- They apologize in order to make themselves feel better
- Their apology is more of an explanation and justification for why what they did was right
- Their apology becomes an opportunity to blame the other parent
- Their apology exposes too many details children don’t need to know and/or shouldn’t know about the divorce
- Their apology becomes a recurring event, ultimately burdening the kids by not allowing them to process and move on
As with most things in divorce, there is no way to do this perfectly. You will almost certainly make some mistakes – both during the divorce and during an apology. What matters most is that you are sincere, that you own your mistakes and that you are ready to make changes going forward.