Telling your kids you’re getting a divorce is one of the toughest conversations anyone could have. How do explain to your children why you’re permanently altering their family structure? And how do you assure them that you’ll all get through it, especially when you’re feeling vulnerable?
While there’s no easy way to break the news about your divorce, there are some guidelines to help you explain your divorce in the most child-friendly way possible.
Prepare ahead of time. Ideally, you and your spouse should have a “dress rehearsal” for the conversation. It helps to write out a “script” so you both know what to say. Even if you disagree on the reasons for the divorce, and harbor ill feelings towards each other, it’s important that the two of you are on the same page when you speak to the kids. If you and your spouse are unable to be in the same room together due to the level of conflict, or if your partner is MIA, it’s still a good idea to write out what you want to say so you can say it with confidence when you sit down with your children.
Say only what needs to be said. Whatever you say, make sure it’s age-appropriate. Your children may think they want the gory details, and may pressure you for them, but resist the urge to share anything other than what they need to know. For instance, if an affair has ended the marriage, you can acknowledge infidelity, but you don’t need to divulge embarrassing facts. If mental illness or addiction is the reason for divorce, name the condition and explain that you and your spouse were not able to deal with it together.
Tell them what will stay the same. You’re probably feeling destabilized by the upheaval in your life, so imagine what it’s like for your kids, who had no control over your decision to divorce. Help them weather the changes to come by explaining what will stay the same: school, friends, pets, bedroom furniture, etc. Children may have lots of questions about where they will live. Make your answers clear and reassuring, even if you need to say, “We are working on the answer to your question, but I do know that we are going to just fine.”
What your kids absolutely need to hear. No matter what the circumstances, every divorcing parent should emphasize the same three things when explaining divorce to their children: it isn’t their fault, they can’t fix it, and you will always love them.
When you divorce and are a parent, safeguarding your children is your top priority. We understand. To discuss your concerns and get answers to your questions, please contact us to set up your initial consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys.