Four Tips About Discussing the Divorce Process with Your Kids

As parents we want our kids to be happy and feel secure. That’s why one of the most difficult things we can do is tell our children that their parents will no longer be living together. This sensitive discussion does not have to scar your children emotionally. The best approach consists of picking an appropriate time for the discussion and explaining, in an age-appropriate manner, that mommy and daddy will no longer be living together. It is also crtically important to emphasize that they will be safe and loved by each parent, and will spend time with both mommy and daddy.

Tip No. 1: Work With Your Spouse to Break the News

Your feelings about your spouse are valid. Perhaps he or she was unfaithful, or made bad financial decisions that pushed you both to the brink of bankruptcy, or for a multitude of other legitimate reasons. But you need to remember that as co-parents you will always be a part of each other’s lives. You will both likely attend your children’s sports games, high school graduations, and even weddings. One important thing you can do is to develop a spirit of cooperation early on by breaking the news of the divorce together.

In some instances this may not be possible, especially if domestic violence or mental illness is a factor in the marriage breakdown. But if you are both able to put your feelings aside and sit down with the kids together, it makes a huge difference in how secure they feel afterwards. The focus should always be on having them feel loved.

Tip No. 2: Consider the Delivery

The way you deliver the news sets the tone for how the children will receive it. Don’t let anger get the better of you and blurt out something like, “Dad doesn’t love you enough to keep the family together” or “Mom has a new boyfriend so I have to leave.” This is both unfair and traumatizing to the children. Don’t lie to the kids: the marriage is over. Simply refrain from assigning blame or giving them a backstory they don’t need to hear. Let your children be children.

Tip No. 3: Focus on the Positives

No matter how old your children are, hearing about the divorce is going to make them anxious about the future, so stay positive. Reiterate that they have two parents who love them unconditionally, and that things at home are going to be as routine as possible. Above all else, reassure them that the divorce is not their fault. Tell younger children that it is simply a grown-up decision. For older kids, you can say that living apart will allow you and your spouse to be happier, and therefore better parents.

Tip No. 4: Be Prepared for Questions

During and after the discussion, be honest, open, and approachable. Let the kids know that they can come to you at any time with additional questions or simply for reassurance. Your willingness to discuss the divorce and allay their fears will help them gradually recover and adjust.

If you have any questions about this issue or any other family law matter, please call our office to schedule an appointment with Ken Cohen or Nancy Norton.