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How to talk about divorce with your child

Ways to talk about divorce with your child

So you and your partner have exhausted all the possibilities and have finally decided that divorce is the only viable way forward. According to recent research, women are twice as likely to initiate divorce proceedings as men, but, when children are involved, both parents are responsible for making the coming upheaval as painless as possible. The reality is that you’ll be having one of the hardest conversations you’re ever likely to have in life. Here are three ways to talk about divorce with your child to help them as much as possible.

Get it clear, first

The decision to divorce may have been taken recently, but it’s probably been heading in that direction for some time. Hopefully, you’ll already have taken steps to try and save the marriage, and even taken legal advice so you understand all the implications of what you’re planning.

According to an expert at Skyview Law, a leading family law practice: “Talking things over together, with a family law specialist, before the final decision can be invaluable in helping both parties understand the implications for themselves and their children. Although this can be difficult when there is a high level of conflict and even mistrust involved, it can be helpful for all parties.”

Get everything clear before you tell your kids the news.

Plan ahead how to talk about divorce with your child

Telling them is tough, so make and agree on a plan together.

Timing is important: avoid telling them on birthdays or other celebrations – don’t link those days to a sad memory.  Don’t tell them when they’re tired, over-excited, or sad. Choose a moment when they’re calm and can take in what they’re being told.

Maybe spend a couple of family days together before telling them to demonstrate that, whatever happens, they have two parents and they are still a family.

Agree in advance what you’re going to say, with your spouse. Working on the exact words and phrases, and thinking about how they might react will help you explain the situation in the calmest and most caring way.

Both of you should be there – be a united front. Don’t get involved with the reasons, don’t blame each other, don’t argue. Just explain that you tried to make things work, but you couldn’t, so this is the best thing to do, for everyone.

What their future looks like

Once they’ve digested that divorce is inevitable, the next thing they’ll need to understand is how it will affect them. Where will they live? When will they get to see the parent who’s leaving?

If you’ve already been pro-active and have agreed on these things, you’ll be able to explain clearly. Don’t leave the important decisions up to them – they need to feel secure and that you’re working to protect them.

If your kids are older, they may want a say in where they’ll live, and their preferences should be taken into consideration, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely their choice. With younger children, explain very clearly what’s going to happen.  Whatever their age, reassurance that they’ll be secure and that they’ll still have two loving parents is what they need most at this point.

9 thoughts on “How to talk about divorce with your child”

  1. As far as I know you have a more centrally organized school system in Canada. This is very helpful in such a case. Because in Germany children often have to live separately from on of the other parent, when their parents separate. Otherwise they could suffer disadvantages when changing schools. Michael

  2. petespringerauthor

    Such an important topic! I’m getting my first children’s novel edited right now. It’s about a boy struggling with his parents’ recent separation.

    As a former teacher, I saw this firsthand. Children should not be caught in the crossfire or used as a bargaining chip. Many divorced parents maintained a healthy relationship and that means everything to a child. I had parent/teacher conferences where the parents were clearly working together and civil, and then there were others where I had to do separate conferences because the parents couldn’t be in the same room with one another. Heartbreaking to see the effect on on kids in situations like that.

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