Once you and your spouse have decided to divorce, it’s important to tell your children before it becomes official. Of course, it’s difficult to tell your children that one parent will be moving out, but straightforward honesty is better sooner rather than later.
Time the Conversation Properly
In a situation where one parent leaves the home right away, it’s best to tell your children the truth immediately. Tell them you didn’t know all the details, but you will tell them future information when you find it out for yourself.
In other situations where you have plenty of advance notice, timing the conversation depends on the age of your child.
- For children younger than five, tell them one or two days before the parent moves out.
- For elementary-aged children, talk to them about a week before.
- For adolescent children, talk to them two weeks in advance so they have time to get used to the idea. It also allows them to talk to their friends about the issue. It’s likely that older children will know more about the situation based on perceptiveness or the fact that one parent may have treated the child as a confidant.
How to Tell Your Children About Divorce
Tell your children about the divorce when you and your spouse will be at home for the next several days. When you tell them together, it proves you still respect one another.
If you and your spouse have anger toward one another and have a hard time talking without arguing, set it all aside for that hour or individually take 30 minutes to discuss the situation separately. Either way, you and your spouse should decide what you will say to your children beforehand.
Choose a normal time of day to talk, and avoid times where your children may be playing with friends or occupied with homework. When everyone is gathered together, explain the situation in simple terms and, above all, keep an open mind.
Your children will always remember when you choose to say and don’t say, so be as sensitive as possible. Assure your children you care about them and you will spend more time with them in the coming days to help them cope with the big change.
Take your time when you are talking to your children about divorce. Of course, you want to get it over with as soon as possible, but rushing through the conversation takes time away from your children’s potential questions.
What to Say About the Divorce
There may be some details about your divorce you don’t want your children to know, but that doesn’t mean you should keep everything from them. Decide on an age-appropriate explanation that helps them understand what is happening without putting them in the middle of the divorce.
The following issues are important ones to cover when you first tell your children about divorce.
- Explain that you loved your spouse for a long time so your children understand they were conceived in love.
- When talking about why you are separating, don’t degrade your spouse. Instead, explain that you can’t get along and a divorce means everyone will be happier.
- Ask your children questions about divorce. They may not understand what divorce means or its permanence. Tell them they can talk to you about the situation anytime they want.
- Your children need to know they are not to blame for the divorce. Use specific examples when you say this. For instance, tell your child that his or her tantrums didn’t cause the divorce.
Explain what the new living situation and visitation schedule will be like. Tell your children that both mom and dad are still their parents. If and when it’s appropriate, ask your children for their input on when they want to spend time at the other parent’s house.