When it comes to separation and divorce, there can be of areas of disagreement. But one thing divorcing parents share is a desire to do what’s best for their children and to help protect them from the potential negative impacts of the divorce. The trouble is, parents are often unsure of how to go about achieving this outcome.

How do you communicate to your children that their parents have decided to not be together anymore? We understand that this is a difficult conversation to have, and we understand the emotions that are at stake. Which is why we have developed five tips to help parents initiate telling the kids about the divorce.

  1. Plan ahead. Work together ahead of this discussion to know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. This way you can be sure to cover everything that needs to be addressed. This also helps you be emotionally ready.
    • Be sure to remind your children that
      • It is not their fault, this is an adult issue
      • You love them and they will always be loved and well cared for
    • Be sure to spare your children
      • Details of the divorce that are for adults only
      • The blame game, try not to point fingers at one another
      • A false sense of hope for reconciliation
    • Be honest
      • Tell them how their lives are going to be impacted, and try to provide as much detail as you can on upcoming changes during and after the divorce is final
      • It’s okay to not have an answer for everything: if you’re unsure about how something will work, tell them: for example, “we still need to figure that out”
  2. Be a united front. Sit down with your kids together and when you talk to them use “we” as much as possible. For example, “we have decided that it’s best if we don’t live together anymore.” This will help demonstrate to your kids that while you might not be together as a couple you can and will still work together when it comes to what’s best for them.
  3. Address the entire family (all of the children) at the same time. You don’t want anyone to feel excluded so it’s best to have this discussion with every member of the family present at the same time. After this initial conversation you can have one-on-one discussions with each child to address their individual concerns about the separation or divorce.
  4. Timing is everything. Make sure that you are both emotionally ready to have this conversation with your children and that you are ready to support them. This discussion is about them. Try to have this talk when you have enough time to go through your children’s thoughts and concerns. Right before they leave for school or before bedtime would not be an ideal time.
  5. Let each child process and reflect. Leave time after this conversation to check in with each child individually so that they know you are there for them and that their voice is important.

Feeling overwhelmed? It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone. At COCD we can, and often do, offer guidance for families who ask for help with telling their children. If you are starting the separation or divorce process and have questions, feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.



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