Jill Smokler, creator of the popular parenting website Scary Mommy, recently decided with her husband, Jeff, to end their 17-year marriage. Their reason: Jeff had come to the realization that he is gay.
With all the emotions and stress that comes with divorce, perhaps the most frightening and daunting for Smokler was the thought of breaking the news to their three children, ages 9, 11 and 13.
Smokler, 39 and a New York Times best-selling author, told TODAY Parents the months after they made the decision to divorce but before they told their children “felt like a sort of honeymoon period of waiting for the news to blow up the kids’ lives.” She and Jeff, also 39, worried their teenage daughter would be “angry and mortified” and that their younger boys would be “devastated.”
So the couple took steps to try to go about dismantling their marriage as thoughtfully as possible, enlisting the help of a practice near their home in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in divorce using attorneys, mediators, and therapists. They developed a plan for telling the kids, though no specific script.
Then, last week, they took their 13-year-old daughter aside and broke the news to her alone.
“Jeff did most of the talking,” Smokler said. They decided to take the approach of complete but simple honesty with the children. After he told their daughter the news, Smokler said her daughter’s first reaction was to hug and comfort her dad, a show of empathy the couple had not dared to expect. “She told him, ‘I still love you the same,'” she said.
Afterward, their daughter wanted to ask her mother questions alone, including “Are you angry?” and “Did you know?” Smokler said she tried to answer her questions straightforwardly.
Telling their sons went less smoothly at first. Youngest child Evan thought it was a joke. “You’re kidding,” Smokler said he replied. He was confused because, as he went on to point out, his parents “never fight” and are often very affectionate. Eleven-year-old Ben buried his face in his hands and asked if they were done yet and if he could be alone in his room.