Do’s and don’ts for navigating the disclosure of your divorce to child-care providers
To most people, your relationship seemed fine. Maybe it even seemed great. Suddenly, that facade is shattered; you are getting divorced. One of the most annoying parts of going through a divorce is disclosing the news and dealing with inane comments: “You seemed like the perfect couple!” “Are you sure?” “I always hated your partner!” It can be tempting to hide the news to avoid these awkward conversations.
On the flip side, you might be tempted to overdisclose. When frustration strikes at the grocery store, for example, you might find yourself unloading on the cashier. At those times when you need a sounding board, anyone can fill that role until you’ve vented enough.
Unfortunately, both silence and overdisclosure are unhelpful strategies when it comes to sharing the news of your divorce with your child-care provider. He or she certainly doesn’t need to know everything, but there is information that is important to share. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to talking divorce with your child-care provider.
DO tell your child-care provider about the divorce. Because divorce is a major life event, it is important the person caring for your child knows about this transition. There are ways of disclosing the news while maintaining appropriate boundaries and a sense of privacy. Share the news in person at a time when your provider can listen and focus. If your provider is preparing his or her classroom, greeting your child, or engaged with other parents, wait until later or schedule a time to talk.
DON’T share all the details. You might have a great rapport with your child-care provider, but this person is not your therapist, sister, or friend, even if you are on friendly terms. Your provider’s job is to take care of your child, not you. Although he or she might want more information about the divorce, it is usually best to keep the conversation short and simple.
DO let your provider know if your ex continues to share custody. Even if your divorce is completely amicable, don’t assume that your provider will know this. If your ex has joint custody or liberal visitation privileges, let your child-care provider know this and clarify that your ex still has a right to information pertaining to your child.
DO let your provider know if your ex does not share custody. If for some reason your ex can have only supervised visits with your child or if you have taken out a protective order against your ex, make sure your child-care provider knows about this. He or she does not need to know the full story but absolutely needs to know who is allowed to pick up your child and what information your ex is allowed to have about your family. If your ex has been violent or dangerous, let your provider know about any safety plans you have that involve your child.
DON’T trash your ex. Even if your ex currently has little involvement with your child, he or she might become more of a presence in your child’s life in the future. Venting about your child’s other parent to your child-care provider is not fair to your ex, provider, or child.
DO involve your provider in a collaborative parenting plan. It is in the best interests of your child for you and your ex to have a collaborative relationship when it comes to your child’s education, health, safety, and development. To convey that you are on the same page, consider meeting with your child-care provider and your ex. Even though you are no longer together as a couple, you are both deeply invested in your child’s growth and development.
It is highly likely your child-care provider has cared for other children whose parents have separated. You can even solicit his or her perspective on ways to make the transition from couple to coparents go as smoothly as possible.
DO let your provider know of your concerns about your child. Divorce can be very disruptive to children, so communicate openly with your child-care provider about your child’s behavior and emotional well-being. Have his sleep patterns been disrupted? Has she regressed in her potty training or in other ways?
DO let your child know that the provider knows about the situation. Even if you’ve handled your divorce as appropriately as possible, your child is probably still confused and might feel caught in the middle. Let your child know that your provider is aware of the situation and that it’s OK to talk to the provider if your child is upset.
DON’T leave your child with a provider who is judgmental of your situation. Sometimes personal values get in the way of providing the best possible care. If your child-care provider is openly judgmental about your new marital status, consider switching to someone who is supportive. Likewise, if your child-care provider has a tendency to gossip or share personal information with others, talk to him or her about your expectations regarding privacy. Divorce is stressful enough without having to worry about gossip and judgment.
There’s no getting around it: Divorce sucks. But your child-care provider can be a source of stability and comfort to your family if you share critical information, respect boundaries, respect your ex-partner, and have a provider who respects you and your decisions.
Danielle Bostick, a former Solo Mom and ESME’s Wellness–Mental Health Resource Guide, is a Latin teacher, an advocate, and a mom to six kids in Winchester, Virginia. When not working as an educator, Bostick writes about the National Football League for various sites and sexual assault and child sexual abuse for the Huffington Post. You can find her on Twitter: @danibostick, and on Facebook: Dani Bostick.
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