Second to deciding to get a divorce, this is one of the hardest things you will have to do. Telling your children is something you might have feared and avoided for a very long time. You might have imagined what it would be like, how it would go, and what their reaction might be. However, nothing has ever really prepared you for that moment when you look your child in the eye and tell them that their family will never be the same again. "We are getting a divorce." Easy to say, but charged with emotions. Here are some tips on telling your kids about your divorce.

-If you can, both of you should tell your children together. When you tell your children together, it demonstrates that this is a decision that you both, as a couple have made and that though you are divorcing, you will both still be their parents. If your kids have a therapist or counselor already before you tell them about the divorce, it might help to tell counselor and get their advice on how to tell the kids about the divorce. 
-If you have children of multiple ages, tell them together. Allow time for them individually to speak with you after you speak with them. Each age group will have different concerns and a different way of understanding divorce.
-Agree on what you will say. You don't need to give all the details. The most important issue that children want to understand is how it will change their life. Will daddy still go to soccer practice, will we still have family dinners, or where will I live? Be simple. "Mom and dad had issues they couldn't resolve together." "We fell out of love." It is not necessary to tell the children if there was an affair. The complexities of divorce are not the business of children. Be clear. "You will stay at mommy's house on these days and at daddy's house on these days." "We both will go to your ballet recital." 
-Avoid the blame game - It is important that the children not feel that one parent is to blame over another. State facts and your children will come to their own conclusions as they grow up. When you blame each other in front of your kids, you end up putting your children in them middle of an emotional battle that is not theirs to witness. 
-Be intentional. Set aside time to talk to them. Driving in the car to school and breaking the news is an avoidant way to communicate. Look your child in the eye and be honest. While it is difficult at first, being forthright is what children need in order to feel secure about what is going on. The less focused you are about this process, the more confused they will feel. 
-It's not your fault. Make it clear that it is not your children's fault. There is nothing that they could have done to prevent this. This does not change the way you feel about them. 
-Have boundaries. Your children will be curious and ask lots or questions. Be honest but within the realm of what is age appropriate and what is necessary for them to know in their world. Telling them too much, too many details, or in a context they cannot understand will be overwhelming to them. Without those boundaries, parents can start to rely on their children for emotional support. That is never your child's job. You are there to support them. You do not need to lean on them. Lean on your friends, family, priest, counselor, or life coach, but never on your children.

We have seen families deny they are getting divorced...even after they are divorced and it hurts their children. Although they thought they were protecting their family from pain, it ended up breaking trust. Children are very smart. And it is likely that there is a part of them that won't be surprised at all. Owning your decision to divorce is an important part of the divorce process and an important part of parenting. 

Posted
AuthorKelly Higdon