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Parents Getting Divorced: How to Handle the Conversation with Children

Author: Raquel Saltzman

The divorce process can be grueling, emotional and stressful. If you’re a parent, one of the saddest parts of getting divorced is telling your children. Children may not be able to comprehend such a major life decision, especially if they are young, and they may think that they were to blame for the divorce. Children also may not understand the consequences of divorce and how it will affect them. Our attorneys, based on the advice of psychologists, offer the following advice in discussing divorce with your children:

  1. Be prepared. Only tell your children if you’re absolutely certain you are proceeding with a divorce. Make sure that when you do tell them there is enough time to answer their questions and continue the conversation. Eliminate distractions during the conversation so you can focus fully on the children’s concerns.
  1. Agree on the story. Parents should make every effort to agree on what they will tell the children and do so together, if possible. It is helpful for children to hear a consistent story of why their parents are no longer going to be living together and married. Children do not like hearing that one parent is the cause for the divorce. It is best if both parents mutually take responsibility. Do not blame the other parent, no matter how angry you may be. Consider the following example:

“We both love you very much, but we have been unhappy with each other for a long time. We’ve tried to make it better, but it hasn’t worked. We feel we will be happier living apart and better parents as a result. We will both still spend time with you and take care of you, but at different houses.” (If there was a lot of fighting, tell them that everyone will be happier if there was no more fighting, and that this process will lead to more peace).

  1. Establish a routine. After telling your children why you are getting a divorce, explain how their daily routine will proceed and share your parenting time schedule. Talk about where you will be moving, what will change and what will stay the same. Be prepared for your children to have many questions, and make sure you devote the time to answer them.
  1. Provide reassurance. Tell your children that your divorce is not their fault. It’s a decision mom and dad made and is not related to any of their behavior. Perhaps, depending on the circumstances, you may also convey to your children that that there is nothing that will change your decision.

If your children ask what “divorce” means, here’s one way to answer that difficult question: “We won’t live together anymore, but we will always be your parents and we will always love you.”

Parents Getting Divorced: How to Handle the Conversation with Children

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