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How to Tell Your Children You're Getting Divorced

For parents who have made the decision to get a divorce, sitting down to talk with your children about your decision can be one of the hardest moments you have to face as a parent. Most parents who are considering divorce are already deeply concerned about how a divorce will impact their children, and they likely feel the weight of breaking the news in the “right” way. After all, it’s not an easy balance to convey to your children that their parents are breaking up while also reassuring them that your love for them is unshakeable.

Let’s be honest – this moment is never going to be easy. But there are things you can do to help your children begin processing the changes that will be taking place. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when telling your children that you are getting a divorce:

Tell Them Together

If at all possible, both parents should be present for this conversation. Having both parents present allows children to hear a unified message, which can help to convey that the decision is both mutual and final. It also demonstrates a sense of shared purpose, empathy, and support for one another. This can be reassuring as it allows them to see the love and respect their parents still share for each other, even though they will no longer be married.

It can also communicate your commitment to cooperating with each other as parents even though you won’t remain romantic partners. Children will want to know that their parents will continue to be their parents, no matter what.

In that same vein, sitting down together for this conversation gives both parents an opportunity to provide their children with the reassurance that they are still loved by both of you, despite the fact that their family dynamics will now be changing.

Keep It Simple

Your kids are not going to want or need a lot of details. In fact, too much information may be overwhelming and confusing for them. They don’t need to know the blow-by-blow that led to your decision, and they definitely do not need to know who is to blame or who instigated the divorce.

Instead, keep your explanation short, sweet, and to the point. Remember to keep your explanations age appropriate. Reiterate that your decision is final and emphasize that it does not change the fact that you both still love them and that will never change. It’s important to reassure them that you still care for one another and will continue to parent them together.

Focus on the Positive

We often hear that children are resilient. Focusing on the positive rather than the negative aspects of divorce can help them tap into that resilience that allows them to adapt to change. You might, for example, communicate to your children that although you won't be living together as a family, you will still care for each other and wish to remain friends despite the changes that are happening.

It is important to assure them that both parents will still actively love and support them regardless of where they are living in the future. You might emphasize that this will allow each parent more focused time with each child individually.

Reassure Them That They Are Not to Blame

One of the most important things you can do is to emphasize to your children that the divorce is not their fault. Children often blame themselves for their parents' divorce, feeling that if only they had behaved differently or been better, things would have gone differently. Make it clear that this was a shared decision between you and your partner that has nothing to do with how they behave or how much each of you loves them.

Make Room for Their Feelings

Feelings can be messy and hard, and many parents struggle when faced with hearing their children express the pain, anger, sadness, or disappointment they feel in response to their decision to get divorced. It’s vital that you provide your child with the opportunity to express their feelings in a non-judgmental and empathetic way.

Depending on your child’s age, they may express their feelings very differently. Younger children may be scared and sad whereas older children may express anger and hurl accusations. However they respond, you can help your child process their feelings by continuing to be a loving and reassuring presence as they begin to take in these changes. Let them know that it's okay to feel however they are feeling, and that you are always available to them if they need to express their feelings or have more questions.

Be Prepared for Questions

Your children may have lots of questions. Be prepared to answer them as best you can, but don’t feel like you need to have all the answers right away. You’re allowed to say that you don’t know or that you will find out more information together.

It can also be helpful to offer age-appropriate resources that they can turn to in order to learn more about divorce and how it might impact their lives. You might also seek out the help of a family counselor or therapist who specializes in helping children cope with divorce. It's important to remember there are resources to help support you and your children through this difficult time.

How Lane & Lane, LLC Can Help

At Lane & Lane, LLC, we understand how difficult and heart wrenching this time can be for your family. Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help guide you through the complexities of divorce – and, if necessary, child custody or support arrangements. We will strive to protect your interests while also ensuring that any decisions made with regards to your children have their best interests at heart.

Contact our office today online or call (908) 259-6673 to schedule a consultation.