Telling your children about your upcoming divorce may be one of the most difficult conversations you have with them. Every child is different and may react in a different way, and depending on their ages, your children may have a limited understanding about what divorce means. Although every situation is unique, there are some general considerations to keep in mind when you decide it is time to tell the kids.
Call a family meeting
It is important to gather the whole family to have the conversation together. You may be tempted to tell the older children first, but this can put the weight of a secret on your older children, while signaling to your younger children that you may not trust them.
Have a unified message
When telling your children about divorce, it can be beneficial for you and your spouse to tell them together. As you do so, try to avoid blaming anyone as you give the children one unified message. When you and your spouse tell the children together in a mature way it can help protect them from feeling that the divorce is their fault or that they must pick sides.
Use age-appropriate descriptions
Children of different ages may have different abilities to understand the concept of divorce. Very young children may have no concept of divorce and may need simple explanations that focus on the basics, such as where the child will live, who will look after him or her, which parent is moving out and when the child will see that parent. It may take several short conversations for a young child to understand what changes are happening. In contrast, school-aged children often understand more about what divorce is, but may think they are to blame for their parent’s divorce, and may need extra reassurance that both parents love them.
Be supportive of all emotions
Your children may have a variety of reactions to the news. Be prepared to accept however your children feel about the situation, even if the emotions are painful. Avoid telling children that it will be okay because nothing may make divorce better for children. However, if your children have questions, be prepared to answer them honestly, even if they are difficult.
When you and your spouse tell your children about your upcoming divorce, it may be an emotional experience for everyone. There is not just one correct way to tell your children, and the best approach for one family may not be as successful with another. However, it may be helpful to consider some general tips to help you have the most successful conversation possible.