What is the best way for parents to tell kids about divorce?

Most children want their parents to stay married, but this is not always possible. When parents decide to end their marriage, they often worry about telling their kids because of the affect this news could have on their children.

There probably is not any good way to give a child upsetting news. However, some ways are better than others.

Choose the appropriate moment

When a child is told about divorce can be an important as how the child is told. No moment will be perfect, but there are several factors parents should consider when selecting a time.

If you are trying to determine when to talk to your child about divorce, look for a time when you and the other parent are absolutely sure about getting a divorce and the whole family can be present, including the other parent. Often, it is best to tell kids about divorce sooner rather than later. However, there are a few times when it might be better to hold off on breaking the news.

Try to avoid telling the kids about divorce:

  • Around celebrations, like holidays or birthdays
  • When the possibility of divorce is uncertain
  • Just before a commitment like school or bedtime
  • When they are in a public place

Use clear, age-appropriate language

Children may have different abilities to understand divorce, depending on their ages, developmental stages and other factors. To address this, it is often best for you and your spouse to agree on the same, simple message that you can convey with age-appropriate language. You may also try to avoid expressing any blame, even if you believe the divorce is one parent’s fault.

Try to also address the changes that divorce may cause and how those changes might affect your children. For example, you may want to discuss when a parent will be moving out of the family home, when the children will see each parent and where the children will sleep.

Prepare to address a variety of concerns

Children may have very different reactions from each other. Often, it is best to prepare for as many reactions as possible. If your children have questions, try to answer them as honestly as possible.

It may also be prudent to reassure your children by answering some common questions, even if your children do not ask them. For example, you may want to make sure your kids know that the divorce is not any child’s fault and they could not have done anything to prevent this from happening. You may also want to remind children that both parents love them and will continue to support them and care for them.

It can take time for kids to adjust to the news of divorce. As the news sinks in and your children begin making sense of it, they may have additional questions. It may be necessary to have several brief conversations about divorce with your children before they have a good handle on the situation.

The news of divorce can be upsetting for kids. However, it is better if they learn about your divorce from you and their other parent, than to find out about it some other way. By choosing the right moment, conveying a clear message and addressing concerns, you can break the news in a way that allows your children to best understand what is happening and begin coping with that change.

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