How to Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce
Do you tend to avoid unpleasantness?
Are you concerned that you don’t have it in you to tell your kids about the divorce?
Telling kids about a divorce is a task that is best accomplished by their parents.
If you don’t do it, your kids are going to figure it out by themselves. (They may already know and they are willing to play along with you and your make-believe-no-divorce-family.)
Or, someone else will tell them what is going on. This is not what you want.
Here is what you need to know about how to tell your kids about your divorce:
1. Do it together. This is a task that you and your co-parent should do together. This is one time when it is critical that you show the children a united front.
2. Here’s what to say. Tell them:
- We have made the choice to divorce because we think it is what will be best for our family.
- We both love you and will always love you. The love that a parent has for a child never ends.
- We are going to always work together to make sure we take care of you.
- We each have a special relationship with you. You can love us both and never feel that you should choose between us, just like each of us loves you and your brother/sister.
3. No place for blame. Make sure that the children are clear that the divorce was not caused by anything that they did or did not do. (Sometimes experts say “tell the kids that the divorce is not their fault.” However, I don’t like using the word fault. I don’t want to plant the seed that this divorce is anyone’s fault. So avoid using the word “fault” and clarify instead that there is no place for blame.
4. We’re still a family. Simply put, divorce means that Mom and Dad won’t be husband and wife anymore but we will all always be a family and we will always be Mom and Dad.
5. The future. Explain the future as best you can. Tell the children what you do know about the logistics and what the future will look like.
6. Don’t lie. If you lie or mislead your children you are giving them a clear message that these behaviors are acceptable. And, they will communicate with you in the same way. Instead, tell them what they need to know and what they want to know – in an age appropriate format.
7. Timing is important. Don’t tell them too soon – months before the move or separation will occur leaves too much time to worry about what their futures will look like. Instead, plan for a brief transition time that takes place before one parent leaves. Do not surprise your kids with a divorce. (Imagine the horror experienced by the children who came home from sleep away camp to find they now had two houses.)
8. Read with them. Read a book about divorce with your children. (See our bibliography.) Reading a book together will provide information and trigger discussion.