How to Talk to Children About Divorce
Divorce or separation can be a challenging time for children since it can bring on a lot of confusion, stress, and sadness. Therefore, it’s important to prepare yourself before sharing this piece of news with your children in order to help them deal with the information in the best way.
5-Minute Crafts has prepared this guide with some important tips to consider when talking to your kids about your decision.
❗Important: This article has been created for informative purposes only and does not replace professional advice. Keep in mind that divorce can be a difficult experience for children, causing strong emotions and a lot of changes. Therefore, it’s advisable to consider getting help from a family counselor to address the conversation in the best possible way.
1. Plan your words and choose the right time to let your children know about your decision.
First of all, along with your partner, think about what you will say to your children and when you will do it. When getting a divorce, it’s advisable to talk to your kids about the situation on a day that allows for spending some time together, like the weekend.
❗Avoid letting your children know that you’re splitting up on a holiday, right before bedtime or school, or during an emotional moment.
✅ Be prepared to have multiple conversations about the decision, as just one is not enough.
💡If it’s difficult to arrange all these details with your partner, consider getting help from a mediator or counselor.
2. Have the conversation with everyone together.
Although this could be rather difficult, it may help your children know that you’re both planning on dealing with this situation together as their mom and dad. Make sure that all your kids hear this important piece of news at the same time and directly from their parents; never from the child who found out about it first.
If you have kids of different ages, you can have a follow-up conversation separately with the older children only after sharing the basic details with all of them together.
💡If talking to your children together seems too hard to accomplish because you have concerns regarding safety or conflict, look for help to develop the most appropriate plan.
3. Tell the truth but keep an empathetic, non-blaming way of speaking.
Try to keep an empathetic tone and talk about the most important details in a direct way. You can be honest, but remind yourself to maintain a child-friendly way of speaking. Avoid giving long reasons since this can be confusing to your kids. Opt for simple sentences and remind them that parents and children can love each other in this situation.
At the same time, it’s important that you avoid sharing with your kids the details that led to the decision of getting a divorce, especially if this information may bring negative feelings toward one of the parents.
✅ Make sure to allow your children to express what they feel about the divorce and answer their questions with responses that are suitable for their age.
💡Remember that feeling caught in the middle is not healthy for your children. In this case, the best thing to do is use the word “we” when you explain the reasons behind your decision, as in “We’re not happy anymore,” or “We want to stop arguing.”
4. Explain what will change and what will remain the same.
It’s very likely that your children will want to know how your decision will impact their lives. Therefore, be ready to share this information with them. This may include where and who they’re going to live with, visiting schedules, and other details — just make sure that you don’t overwhelm them.
At the same time, it’s important to reassure them about what will stay the same, such as their friends, sports, school, and other daily activities.
🚫 Don’t share financial details or personal issues with your children, no matter how old they are.
✅ Remember to be honest about the things you know and don’t know yet. However, it’s advisable to tell them that, in spite of all the changes coming ahead, you expect that the family will be happier and healthier with this decision.
💡 Don’t forget to say “I love you” and let your kids know that you still care for them. It can be a powerful message for them to know that this hasn’t changed.
5. Remind your children that this decision is not their fault.
It’s likely that your children think they have something to do with your decision, either because of past arguments with their parents, poor grades, or getting into trouble.
Therefore, it’s important to help your kids understand that they’re not responsible for your separation by repeating the reasons why you’re getting a divorce, being patient, and reassuring them that their parents will always love them.
✅ Let your children know that both parents will be there for them even though they won’t be living under the same roof anymore.
6. Be understanding of your children’s reactions and give them the time they need.
Since this decision will bring a lot of changes into their lives, it’s important to be as understanding as possible about the way your children react, especially if there is no reaction. Keep in mind that, in the beginning, they might not know how to express what they feel and it may take some time for them to talk about their emotions.
✅ Let your children know that you’re open to new questions if they have them in the future. However, make sure not to push them.