I’ve recently been helping some parents think through how and when to talk to their children about their divorce. Here are some tips I’ve come up with – it’s based on years of reading and working with parents. – please share it with your spouse!
7 Tips for Parents Talking to Kids About Divorce or Separation
Plan. Talk with your spouse first and plan out how and when you are going to have this talk. Your children will remember this moment for the rest of their lives. Tell them in a safe place, like home Make it early enough in the day that they’ll have time to ask questions.
Do it together. You and your spouse should sit down with all of the children together. It’s important that they get the same message from both of you at the same time. And that they all find out together.
Practice your lines. Go over what you want to say to them ahead of time, and make sure that you and your spouse are giving a uniform message. Some parents even rehearse their lines. It might be helpful to have a 3rd person help you with this ahead of time.
Be honest. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Don’t blame. Remember that your soon-to-be ex-spouse will not become your child’s ex-parent. They are your child’s only other parent. It doesn’t matter who wants to get divorced or why. Your child needs practical information, in an age-appropriate language they can understand. They don’t need to know “grown-up” details.
Put yourself in their little shoes. Tell them that it’s not their fault. Explain it in a way that they can understand. Let them ask questions. Acknowledge their feelings. Help them feel safe.
Reassure them that you are not abandoning them. Be concrete. Tell them when and where you will see them.
Most of all, let them know that you are still their parent and are always there for them. After all, that’s all that really matters.
Joy S. Rosenthal, Esq. is a compassionate mediator, a skilled negotiator and an intelligent litigator with extensive background in the private and public sectors. Joy served as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Division for nearly 10 years, where she represented hundreds of children and teenagers… MORE