How to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce

mother having serious conversation with son
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When you break the news of your divorce to your kids, they will always remember the discussion. Hearing that their parents are divorcing will have a life-long impact. It is up to you to share the information with your kids in a way that supports them rather than harms them.

When to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce

Children should be told as soon as the decision to divorce has been made, meaning a firm decision. If you and your ex are angry and throwing around the D word, don't bring your children into unresolved conflict until you are certain that it is marital conflict that can't be resolved. 

It is natural for parents to feel anxious and uncertain about telling their kids they have decided to divorce. This anxiety can cause parents to delay talking to their kids which is not in the child's best interest.

If you allow your anxiety to keep you from talking to your kids, you will only increase their anxiety. The way you choose to tell your kids about your divorce will set the tone for how your kids handle the divorce. If it is at all possible, both parents should talk to the kids as a family.

How to Have the Conversation

Remember that the discussion should focus on the kids and their feelings, not you and your feelings. Some parents have a hard time stepping back and letting go of how they feel and putting their children's needs first. This is a situation where it is imperative that you are able to do that.

You should focus on the response of your kids to the news. Be fully engaged with them, their emotions, and what they may need from you in that moment. Be present.

In a perfect world, mom and dad will sit down with the kids together and share the news of the divorce. If you don't live in a perfect world, you are completely capable of breaking the news on your own.

Remember these key points:

  • Your kids will have questions. Be prepared to answer those questions.
  • Your kids may respond to the news in a highly emotional way. Be prepared to focus on their emotions in a manner that helps them feel secure.
  • Allow your kids to experience their own feelings. Whether is sadness or anger, your kids must know that they have a right to their feelings. Validate their feelings, don't try to rescue them from their feelings.
  • Your kids will want to know why there is going to be a divorce. If it's possible you and your spouse should decide beforehand what explanation you will give. If it isn't possible, give the least damaging explanation you can. 

What to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce

Kids aren't equipped to deal with the ugly truths. If your spouse had an affair, don't dump all the dirty details on your kids. Keep in mind how painful the divorce is for you and don't share information that is going to cause that kind of pain for your kids.

  • Tell them they are not responsible for the divorce.
  • Tell them both parents love them even though one parent will no longer live in the home.
  • Children are curious about what issues caused the divorce, and they will ask. Be ready with an age-appropriate response.
  • Explain to them who they will live with, how often they will see the other parent and fill them in on any changes that might take place due to the divorce.
  • Let them know that you will be there to answer any questions they have in the future and they should feel free to come to you with concerns or fears they have.

What to Do After Telling Your Kids About Divorce

This will be the most important period for your kids, the time after you talk to them will determine who they respond and carry on once the divorce process begins. Keep their lives as normal as possible!

  • Continue to reassure them by showing them love and putting them first. This will help alleviate any fear and sadness they feel.
  • Offer them stability by keeping change to a minimum, making sure they spend enough time with both parents and sticking to a daily routine that suits their needs.
  • Encourage them to maintain close relationships with their friends, continue participating in sports and school activities. Do everything possible to help them remain children with only childish concerns.

What You Should Never Do During Divorce

  • Never allow your emotions to get in the way of doing and saying what is in your child’s best interest.
  • Don’t allow your grief to interfere with the time you spend with your children. In spite of your sadness, maintain a high level of contact with them.
  • Don’t allow resentment toward your ex to bleed over into your relationship with your children.
  • Never shut your children out when they try to discuss the divorce and their feelings with you. No matter how uncomfortable you feel discussing the issues, you must be willing to do so.