How to talk to your children about divorce

First of all I want to say that just by searching for ways to talk to your children about divorce you’re showing yourself to be a loving and caring parent. You might be worried that your actions are going to affect your children, but whether you realize it or not, being in an unhappy marriage will be affecting the children too. It’s incredibly brave to be tackling divorce when the marriage is no longer happy. Of course if you’re still not sure whether divorce is the right option or not, then couples therapy together could really help figure out if divorce is the best way forward.

Once you know that separation or divorce is the next step, it’s time to talk to the children. There is no easy, one size fits all way to talk to your children and separation and divorce. Every child will react differently and have their own concerns, questions, and anxieties surrounding this change. As an adult and a parent, it’s important to remember that during a divorce your children are likely to have a flurry of emotions and concerns that they may, or may not, wish to voice to you. It is your job to make sure that your children are comforted, their questions are answered, and they know that you’re available to talk should they have further questions. Make sure you also have someone to talk to during this time to help your mental health as well.

Below are a few tips on how to talk to your children about divorce. Talking to children about divorce is no easy feat, however, it’s something that must be done; therefore the following tips will help to make this difficult conversation easier for you and your children. It’s better for both parents to be present during these conversations unless that is likely to cause more conflict or bring negative energy into the conversation.

Remind your children that both parents love them still – no matter what.

Regardless of what has happened in the relationship between you and your partner, it’s imperative that your children know that they are still loved and cherished by both parents. Communicating to your children that, although your relationship may have broken down, it had nothing to do with them and was certainly not their fault, will help put them at ease. When talking to your children about divorce, making them understand they are not to blame is vital, as well as ensuring they know that, despite changes in living arrangements, both parents still love them just as much as before. If you are determined to still have contact with your child, despite not being the main carer, ensure that you make regular plans to connect and spend time together. Stick to these plans as best as you can, as canceling meet-ups with your children can make them feel unwanted and unloved.

Do not blame the other parent for the divorce.

It’s best for parents to plan what they want to say to their children when thinking about how to talk to their children about divorce. With complicated break ups and mixed feelings, sometimes parents cannot agree on what to say. The most important thing to do in this scenario is to refrain from placing the blame on the other parent. Blaming the other parent when discussing divorce with your children can create confusing and conflicting feelings that are often far too complex for your child to process, especially in such a highly emotional situation. Children may feel they then have to ‘choose a side’, or feel worried about rejecting or betraying a parent. Whatever the ‘truth’ may be, ensure that your children do not feel torn about who was in the right and who was in the wrong in their parent’s relationship.

Tell your children what’s happening, but keep it appropriate.

With that being said, your children will ask you questions about why this is happening and how it all came about. Older children and teenagers may have seen it coming and have their own opinions that they may wish to voice. They are also more likely to ask questions that will help them to understand how and why their lives are going to change. Although it’s advised you don’t share the nitty-gritty details, it is perfectly reasonable to explain that, despite your best efforts, your relationship is no longer working. Again, it’s best to refrain from playing the blame game and reiterate that, despite the divorce, both parents still love their children very much. 

Having some age appropriate books to hand that they can read, or you can read together, can help them process the information. For example this drawing and activity book is suitable for children under 10. Charly, an Amazon reviewer, said “As you can imagine it’s been a difficult time for our family but this book has helped my 6 year old to understand the situation better she’s able to talk and express herself through the pages.

Discuss what will change and what will stay the same.

When discussing divorce with your children, you’re going to want to focus on how your divorce from their other parent is going to affect them. No matter how amicable your divorce may be, there will still be big changes to your children’s lives, and preparing them for these as early as possible will give them a better chance to compose their thoughts and feelings. Important things to mention will be topics such as:

  • Where will the children live?
  • Which parent will be the main carer?
  • Who will be leaving the family home?
  • Who will pick them up from school?

Again, it’s vital you reiterate that, as parents, you are divorcing each other and not divorcing your children. Reassuring your children that, even though one parent won’t be living with them anymore, doesn’t mean that they don’t still love them. 

When it comes to discussing divorce with your children, reassurance is key.

Divorce is often a symptom of complex adult issues that are too complicated for children to understand. Because of this, no matter what approach you use when discussing divorce with your children, you need to ensure that you are frequently reassuring them that they are loved, wanted, and that they are not at risk of ‘betraying’ or hurting one of the parent’s feelings. During the first few stages of separation, there are a lot of unknowns; because of this and the volatile nature of separation, ensure you do not make promises that you cannot keep. Remind your children that, no matter what goes on between you and their other parent, you will be doing your best to make plans and stay in their lives as much as possible.

I hope that these tips have helped give you some confidence and reassurance for this difficult time.

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