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How to Tell Your Children You’re Getting a Divorce

May 07, 2024
Divorce
Tell Your Children Youre Getting a Divorce

Naturally, we hesitate to tell our children bad news. What do we say? How do we say it in the best way possible?

You can better support your children in coping with the news if you and your spouse carefully decide what to tell them together. Research and anticipate their difficult questions and your responses.

Put on your poker face–they’ll need you as their strong leader now more than ever. Here’s how to tell them.

Allow Plenty of Time

Ideally, tell your children two to three weeks before separating. This will give them the time they need to mentally prepare for changes before they happen.

Discuss with your spouse beforehand what will change and stay the same for the children. Consider ironing out the following details with your spouse:

  • Living situations
  • Custody arrangements
  • School
  • Transportation to and from activities or school

Tell your children what they need to know about these changes. Most young children only need the big picture, while older ones might ask a lot of questions.

How long can a parent expect this discussion to take? Assume this discussion will take about an hour.

Prepare One Story

Prepare what you’ll say ahead of time. When you’ve given it some thought, the conversation will go a little smoother for you, your soon-to-be-ex, and your kids. Consider writing it out like a letter or a script, or jot down the main ideas you want to communicate.

More importantly, script what you’ll say with your spouse. You want your children to get one story of the divorce, not two or more. Various stories (especially ones placing blame) negatively impact them.

Tell everyone at the same time. Don’t tell one kid now and another one later. No child wants to feel left out of the loop.

Need help preparing what to say? Search the internet until you find wording you like.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Your children need you to deliver a message they’ll easily understand and receive. This is no time for sobbing, blaming, or blowing off steam.

Staying cool, calm, and collected shows them they still have two incredible parents. They’ll be less likely to feel the need to choose one of you over the other when you’re both cordial.

Reassure Throughout

Reassure your children throughout your talk that you love them, and everything will turn out alright. Your children will need to hear it often in your discussion and in the days ahead.

No matter how softly you deliver this blow, they’re likely to feel like the rope in a game of tug-of-war. Kids often feel they need to choose one parent over the other. Assure them they can love you both equally.

Adjust to Your Child’s Age or Mentality

Different ages, mentalities, and maturity levels have different needs. Fine-tune your message so that your children understand you.

Preschool-aged children can only process a few details at a time. They need short and simple sentences. (ex. You will live with Mommy sometimes and Daddy sometimes.)

Young school-aged children are naturally egocentric. That means they’ll likely internalize the divorce and assume something they did caused it or something they failed to do could have stopped it. Assure them that the divorce has nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do.

Consider checking out divorce blogs to learn more about age-appropriate divorce discussions. Most apps for divorced parents have websites featuring helpful co-parenting information like this.

Search online for a kid’s TV or YouTube show dealing with divorce. These audio-visuals can help you find the right words to say during your discussion.

Additionally, consider showing age-appropriate shows dealing with divorce to your children to supplement what you’ve said after you and your spouse have broken the news. Be sure to pre-screen anything you show them.

Heap on the Love

Children need to be told over and over again how much you and your spouse love them. Provide plenty of care, compassion, and reassurance. Tell them that while you can fall out of love and divorce a spouse, you can never fall out of love with or divorce them.

Bonus Aftercare Advice

Let’s go one step beyond the talk of your separation to some things you can do next.

Stick with Routines

Stick to your routines before and after the separation as much as possible. If your worlds were rocked a little too much to maintain any semblance of normalcy, create new routines as fast as possible.

Routines provide predictable patterns. Those predictable patterns offer stability, which is what children need to adjust and thrive.

Tell Others

It takes a village to raise a child. You and your co-parent will need help.

Tell the right people about your divorce–your child’s pediatrician, teachers and principals, neighbors, and extended family. They can be your eyes and ears in looking for signs of how well or poorly your child is adjusting. Ask them to help you gauge how well your child is responding to their new circumstances.

Use a Co-Parenting App

Dealing with a co-parent who’s running their own separate household has its challenges. One of those is communication. The other is collaborating with them on all things child-related.

A co-parent app is a divorced parent’s life preserver for the many things co-parents need to share across separate households. Check out divorced family apps that help you create and share custody schedules, activity calendars, pictures, memos, messages, and even child-related bills.

Strive to maintain a good working relationship with your co-parent. A low-conflict relationship with their other parent and a loving attitude towards your child are the best things you can give your children after your divorce.

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