How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce


parents telling kids about divorce


You know that your marriage is over, and you know that your children are going to feel the impact of the decision. How you tell your children could have a major impact on the rest of their life. Continue reading to learn how you can avoid the major mistakes that have caused trauma in so many children’s lives. We understand how important this conversation is and the effect it can have on your family. That’s why we rounded up our top tips on how to tell your kids you are getting a divorce.

Before moving on to the tips, your children will remember this conversation. They will remember what was said, where it takes place and how the conversation made them feel. That’s why it is important to work with your spouse to decide when, where, and how you will inform them. 

    1. Create a plan. It should be planned as much as possible so that you can give it the weight that it deserves. This will be one of the most difficult conversations you will have as you go through the process. Whether it is a shock or something that is expected, it needs to be taken seriously. If possible, you and your spouse should agree on the best way to tell your children. The plan of action does not need to be formally written, but it needs to include where, when, and how you will tell them. 
    2. Where. The location of the conversation is important because it will be remembered. You need to decide how this will impact them. Avoid having the conversation in a “happy place” because it could taint that place going forward. Think about the people involved and how they might react. If anger is possible, you need to consider whether a public venue is better or worse for your situation. 
    3. When. This should not be a rushed conversation, but it needs to happen as soon as possible. You need to make sure that the children hear the news directly from you. The longer you wait, you invite opportunities for them to overhear you telling someone else or reading something that they should hear directly from you. 
    4. Unity is Preferred When Possible. If possible, your kids need to hear about the divorce from both of you at the same time. Do not tell one kid first and wait to tell the other because of their age or personality difference. Instead, tell all of your kids at the same time by giving them general information. From there, you can talk to your kids separately in an age-appropriate way that caters to their individual needs.
    5. Message to the children. Divorce can be a sad thing, but not necessarily a bad thing. Explain the difference between that and help them navigate it when they express their emotions. No matter the true “reason” for the divorce, your children do not need to hear the details. Try presenting the “why” in a united front that doesn’t blame anyone. You can say something like, “We aren’t happy together,” or “We want different things in our lives” or “We tried to work out our differences but haven’t been able to.” Remember that good people can sometimes simply not be good together. 
    6. Avoid Blame. Divorce is hard. Many clients feel the need to tell their children too much because they don’t want the children to “blame” themself for the divorce, so they start telling the kids too much information. This is selfish and hurtful to all involved. Don’t tell them “Dad had an affair” or “Mom is leaving us”. This will cause your children to feel like they’re stuck in the middle, or they have to choose sides. That is not healthy and can cause lasting problems. You need to give them the support and reassurance they need as their parents. 
    7. Be Ready for Questions. As you tell them what is happening, it is natural and expected for your kids to ask “why”. Some kids need time to process the news and will not talk right away. Other kids will have a lot of questions. Keep your emotions in check and be as honest in your responses as possible within reason. Don’t involve them in the adult aspects of it like affairs, finances, and the legal process. If you don’t have an answer at the moment, tell them you don’t have an answer, but you will let them know when you figure it out. Reassure them that they can ask you any questions at any time, too.
    8. Tell them what will change and what will stay the same. Your kids will have a lot of concerns about what changes this will bring to their lives. “Who will we live with?” “Will we have to move?”  “Will we go to the same school and see our friends?” Try your best to be prepared with answers to these questions as well as a response to what you do not know. You need to reassure them that while there will be changes, there will be things that stay the same and list those things. Be sure to let them know that two things will never change and that you both are always their parents, and you will always love them. 
    9. Give them time to adjust to this change. You need to understand that while you and your ex have lived without each other for a number of years before your relationship began, all your kids know is your life together. This will probably be earth-shattering to them as the only life they have known will be different. It’s important to be emotionally present and reassuring for them during this time. As you move forward, monitor their behavior. If things change, they may benefit from therapy.

We hope these tips are helpful for you and your family. It will be essential for healing and sets the tone for the divorce process. For more helpful tips on children and divorce in the Southwest Suburbs of Illinois, read more of our blogs by clicking here!