Talking to your kids about your divorce is never going to be an easy conversation. Grief and confusion are natural emotions for children to feel during a divorce. Keeping your child’s emotions and best interests front and center throughout the process can help soothe the intense feelings that you and your child may be experiencing.
At some point, you will have to tell your children that you are getting a divorce, and that can be nerve-wracking. Having intentional discussions about the divorce will help protect the bond you share with your child.
Telling Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce
Once you and your partner have decided to divorce, it is important to sit down with your children and explain the process to them. Anticipate that they will be confused, have questions, and may blame themselves for the divorce. Planning the key points of the conversation ahead of time can help minimize confusion.
The more intentional you are, the better. The following tips are not hard-and-fast rules, but they may be helpful thoughts to consider as you plan to tell your kids about your divorce.
Tip 1: Present a United Front
If possible, you should schedule a family meeting that includes you, your children, and your co-parent. Discuss the key points you want to talk about with your ex ahead of time so that your children can see that you are on the same page.
At a minimum, discuss how you will present the reasons for the divorce prior to the meeting. The less inconsistency here, the better. You should also plan to discuss co-parenting arrangements so your children understand the logistical aspects of the divorce.
Tip 2: Anticipate & Validate Your Child’s Emotions
You know your child better than anyone. While children can react to divorce in unexpected ways, you may be able to head off emotional reactions by going out of your way to anticipate how they might be feeling. This may also require reflection about the extent to which they know about the problems in your relationship already.
Validate tough emotions when they come up. Your divorce may be the most significant change your child has had to experience in their short life, so take time to listen to and acknowledge their reactions.
Tip 3: Reassure Your Children That It’s Not Their Fault
Children need reassurance from both parents that they are not responsible for the divorce. Parents may decide that it is in the best interest of their children to be vague about the reasons for the divorce. This may be the right decision, but be prepared for your children to fill in the information gaps by assuming that the divorce is their fault.
Self-blame is a common response for children to have to divorce. No matter how clear the reasons for the divorce seem to you, plan to repeatedly reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault. Remind them that you love them and that your commitment to their well-being is unwavering.
Tip 4: Take Time to Answer Their Questions
Your children are going to have a lot of questions. Common questions kids have after learning their parents are divorcing range from “what is divorce?” to “how can I help you get back together?” You and your partner should think about your responses to possible questions ahead of time. For example, if your child asks what life will be like after you are divorced, be prepared to explain any changes to your living situation while emphasizing that your love for them will never change.