Explaining a decision to divorce to children is a delicate and challenging task that requires sensitivity, empathy, and clear communication. It’s essential to prioritize their emotional well-being and provide a safe space for them to process their feelings.
With that said, it is also a difficult conversation and one that typically requires some planning. If you have decided to divorce, how should you bring it up to your kids? How can you guide the conversation? How can you make it easier for your kids?
10 key tips
Fortunately, it is possible to make this conversation easier than it might otherwise be. The key is to put the children first every step of the way. Here are 10 tips that can help:
- Choose the Right Time: Pick a moment when your children are relaxed and not preoccupied with other things. Make sure there are no deadlines coming up or other obligations, allowing you to talk for as long as needed.
- Be Honest and Direct: Use age-appropriate language to explain that you and your partner are going to live apart.
- Emphasize It’s Not Their Fault: Reassure them that you both still love them unconditionally and that the divorce is in no way their fault. Do not assume that they understand this already, just because you know that the situation isn’t their fault.
- Present a United Front: Talk to your children together, so they know you are in agreement about the decision.
- Use “We” Language: Frame it as a mutual decision, even if it wasn’t, to avoid assigning blame. Do not alienate your ex.
- Address Their Feelings: Encourage them to share their emotions and concerns. Make it a two-way conversation. Do not judge and listen attentively.
- Be Patient: Accept that they will need time to process the news and might react differently. They will view these circumstances in a different way than you do.
- Reassure Stability: Let them know that although the family will change, they will be supported and cared for.
- Be Prepared for Questions and Silence: Anticipate their inquiries and have honest, age-appropriate answers ready. Give the children a chance to talk. If they aren’t ready to talk, be prepared for that too.
- Address School and Friends: Explain that they will continue to go to the same school and see their friends. If this isn’t possible, explain what will remain the same, as stability is very important for kids.
With this mindset, you can break the news to your child in a way that they can handle and process. You also show them that both you and your co-parent still love them and are there to help during this challenging time.