How to Talk to Your Kids About…Divorce

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 10:33 am

Divorce is a very sensitive subject. One that is hard for all parties involved. It can be especially difficult for parents to know how to talk to their children about such an adult subject.

Adults need to realize that the way they talk about divorce will set the tone for how their children view, and handle the situation.

 Do’s

  • If possible, talk to your children about the divorce together as a family, with both parents present.
  • Talk to your children as soon as you have decided to get a divorce. Don’t put it off. Hiding it from your children will not make it easier.
  • Make sure you and your spouse agree before hand on what you are going to tell your children.
  • Assure your children that they are not responsible for the divorce.
  • Tell them why you are getting a divorce, but keep it age appropriate. (Your father and I don’t get along anymore, and living together has become awkward.)
  • Talk to them about the most important details, how the divorce will affect them. (Include, where the children will live, who they will live with, where the other parent will live, when the other parent is leaving, how visitations will work, etc…)
  • Assure them repeatedly that they are loved.
  • Assure them that you have tried to work things out.
  • Talk about how things are going to stay the same. Remember children like predictability because it makes them feel safe and secure.

Key phrases that you might consider including.

  • “You haven’t done anything to cause the divorce; this is between me and your father.“
  • “Just because your mother and I won’t be living together anymore, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to be with you.”
  • “Just because I won’t be living here, doesn’t mean you can’t talk to me whenever you want. You can always call me on the phone, anytime. You can always reach me.”
  • “Even though your mother and I won’t be living in the same house, we will always be here for you. We both love you very much.”
  • “Your dad and I understand that you might be feeling lots of different things. We are always here to talk about how you feel and answer any questions you have..”

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to buy your child’s love to make the divorce more manageable for them. Kids don’t want gifts; they want you and your spouse. They want security and to feel loved. They want honesty and loyalty.
  • Don’t talk negative about your spouse.
  • Don’t talk to your children when you are angry
  • Don’t talk about the details of the divorce such as financial matters and custody issues.
  • Don’t blow off your children’s questions.
  • Don’t rush your children into adulthood. Let them be children. Keep them protected from adult details and adult decisions.
  • Don’t take your resentment or frustrations for your spouse, out on your children.

Divorce is difficult for all families, but with patience and preparations, talking to your children about divorce can be a positive experience that assures them that above all things, they are loved, and always will be.

About the Author

Heather Ann Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother. She and her husband have 4 children. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Brigham Young University where she teaches students the principles behind successful families. Her blog, Family Volley, answers reader’s questions about families, marital relationships, and raising children. A firm believer that families should play together, Family Volley features a new activity or game for families every Friday. Heather is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team

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