One of the most difficult tasks of divorce is telling your children you’re splitting up. Before you sit down to give them the news, it’s important to anticipate questions they might have and be prepared for how to answer them.
Older kids will want, and can understand, more details than younger kids [see our blog Questions Young Children Ask About Divorce]. But be careful not to divulge too much, steer clear from discussing child custody arrangements that may still be in the beginning stages of negotiation, and don’t point the finger at the other parent. You want to assure your children that you did everything to save the marriage, not create unhealthy alliances.
Here are some common questions, and some suggestions for how to answer them.
Q: What if Dad moves away?
A: Dad has no plans to move right now. If he does move in the future, he will make every effort to stay close so you can live with him part of the time. No matter where he lives, he will still be your dad and he will always love you.
Q: Will I have to change schools?
A: We know how much you like your friends and teachers and we will do everything possible so you can stay at your school.
Q: Do we need to move?
A: If living arrangements are in flux: “We’re not sure, but we will do our best to find good homes close to your school and friends.”
Q: Do I need to get along with Mom’s new partner?
A: You need to be polite and respectful, the way you would treat anyone else. Mom’s new partner will never replace Dad. He will be another person who cares for you.
Q: Who wanted the divorce?
A: It doesn’t matter whose idea it was. The marriage wasn’t working for either of us. The important thing is that we will always be your mom and dad and we will always love you.
Q: Did Mom/Dad have an affair?
A: If older kids have evidence of an affair, you need to answer honestly, but with as few details as possible: “There was infidelity in the marriage, and because of this Dad and I made the decision not to stay together.”
Q: Why are you always telling me to get along with people when you guys can’t get along with each other?
A: There are some problems even adults can’t fix. Your mother and I tried very hard to make the marriage work, and we couldn’t. We decided we would get along better if we lived separately.
Still feeling unsure of what to say? Focus on the message every child wants to hear: even though their family structure is changing, your love for them never will.
Have questions about child support and child custody arrangements for your older children? Our attorneys are here to help. Please contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation.