Deciding to divorce your spouse will be one of the most crucial decisions you will ever have to make. But it gets even more difficult. Sooner or later, you will have to sit down with the children and explain the situation to them. It is critical that they hear this news from you instead of someone else.
Keep in mind that from your children’s point of view, their world is being ripped apart. Through no fault of theirs, their lives are changing forever. For that reason, your spouse must show a united front, talk to them together, and reassure them as much as possible.
Plan For The Talk
Make sure you sit down with them when no one is in a hurry. This is not the talk to have if your child is expected at the ballpark in thirty minutes, has a bedtime soon, or if you have an appointment in an hour. Ensure that you have a long portion of the day free. It is also best not to have this moment on a “special day,” such as a birthday. You owe it to your children to break the news in as reassuring a manner as possible. Their world may be crashing, but they are still relying on you to hold it together. You should appear (even if you don’t feel it) as calm as possible.
You and Your Spouse Are In This Together
Even though you and your spouse are splitting, you need to be a united front to the children. Talk to them together and talk to all of them at once. Provide them with the basic facts and keep reassuring them. (“We will always love you and be there for you.”) It is okay to have a follow-up question and answer session with older children without the younger ones being present.
If your about-to-be ex is prone to violence, discuss your options with a counselor before approaching the children.
Do Not Blame
This is the type of discussion where it is easy to blame. He did … she said … The more bitter you are, the more you will be tempted to harp on your “truth.” “Daddy is having an affair.” “Mom no longer wants to be a part of this family.”
Get the accusations and diatribe out of the way before the children are in the room. They need one thing from you at this moment: support. Use the word “we” as frequently as possible. “We both think this is for the best.” “We both will always love you.” “We have decided we will be happier when apart.”
Provide Details – But be Careful
The children, regardless of age, do not need to hear the ugly specifics behind your decision. But they will greatly appreciate an explanation. It is best to keep the details are broad and vague as possible. “It seems Daddy and I want different things.” “Mommy and I will be better off as friends.”
If there is someone else involved in this divorce, the children don’t need to know that one of their parents is already in a new relationship. They should not be exposed to any of Mom and Dad’s new “friends” until that particular relationship has a definite future.
Your children’s world is being upended. They will be frightened. They are far more concerned about themselves at this point than in your pain. That is perfectly normal.
The Details You Should Be Sharing
Children are selfish by nature. They want to know how this divorce will affect them. Will they be moving and changing schools? Will they leave their friends behind? Who will be taking them to the gym and dance class now?
You and your spouse should have these details worked out prior to having the talk. Calmly inform them of any changes they will be facing. Reassume them both of you will be there for them to help.
Who Is Leaving The House?
One of you will be moving out. The children need to know any future living arrangements. How far will they travel between households? Is one of you moving out of state? How often will they see either parent? Explain that everyone is still one family. You are simply living apart. Make sure the children know and have sufficient notice about when the move will happen. “I have found us an apartment, and we will be moving this weekend” will be far too overwhelming.
Knowing that their entire lives are about to change is stressful for the kids. Keep reassuring them that nothing about the split is their fault. Emphasize the things that will remain a constant in their lives – they will attend the same school. They will be in the same Scouts’ troop. Both of you will still be present for their school games.
Accept Their Feelings
Their feelings will likely run the gamut from feigned indifference as they shut down to tears and temper tantrums. They need time to process the situation and their feelings. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are sad. This may help them open up to you. Allow them to ask questions, but don’t push. There will be plenty of other talks.
Divorce is hard on everyone involved. When it comes to your children, remember what they are looking for most is a sense of security. Once they know their future is secure, they will be able to face most obstacles with your help and guidance.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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