A man once had a cat that he loved very much. When he went away for a six-month work assignment, he left the cat in the care of his brother, promising to call every week and check on the status of his beloved cat.
All went well, until one week when the man called and asked about his cat. “The cat died,” the brother reported. The man was shocked and saddened. He reprimanded his brother, saying “that’s no way to tell me that my cat is dead. I am completely unprepared for this terrible news. You could have warned me over time. You know I call every week and ask about the cat. You could have said ‘the cat is on the roof and we can’t get him down.’ Then on the second week you could have said ‘the cat fell off the roof and we took him to the hospital – he is in critical condition.’ Then, by the third week, when I called and you reported that my cat did not make it, I would have been better prepared for the news.”
The brother apologized, “You’re right,” he said. “I am terribly sorry.”
“That’s okay,” the man replied. “Anyway, how’s mom?”
Remember this joke from “Apocalypse Now?” It is an old but valuable story about the power of timing in making difficult news more (or less) palatable. Too many times difficult news is presented to family and loved ones as a bombshell, and not in a way with which the recipient could easily cope.
If you know you are getting a divorce, but you have not told your friends and family, you might want to take a few moments and consider that how you tell them, and the order in which they receive the information, could have a large impact on the amount of support they are able to give you going forward.
And, even more so any minor children living with parents who decide to divorce. A child who wakes up one morning to be told that life will be radically altered with no warning can suffer from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for years afterwards. If the child was only ever told “we are a happy family,” and then one day that family dissolves, such a child may have a difficult time trusting the idea of happiness in the future.
We all want to shield our children from pain as long and as much as possible, and this includes emotional pain. But a child who understands something about their parents’ journey from married to divorced might better be able to incorporate that process into his or her own thinking.
If you plan to have an alternate weekend visitation schedule, for example, maybe start practicing that – interspersed with full-family weekends – before it is ordered by the court. If one parent will be looking for a new apartment, have the child come along and “apartment hunt” with you, so that he or she knows it will be a place that you will both enjoy.
That way, when the divorce is final and the parents are ready to move on, the children might also be ready for those big next steps.
Most states have a mandatory waiting period from when divorce is filed until it can be completed. Consider using that entire period of time to help your children get up to speed on the final outcome. One way to begin might be with a joke, and then the idea of “our marriage is on the roof.”