When & How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting Divorced

By JustMommies staff

One of the clearest, and possibly most painful, memories your children will carry in their lives is the day you tell them you're getting a divorce. No matter how amicable you and your ex plan to be, the changes are rough on kids.

When it comes to sitting your kids down, there are things they need to know and things they don't need to know. Adult problems that are bad enough to cause a divorce are way too complex for kids to process, even older kids. Presenting such devastating and life-changing news will be tough, but if you and your spouse can do it together and stay friendly and on the same page throughout the conversation, it may spare them some extra pain.

  • Don't get into details - No matter who is to blame, your kids love you and your spouse equally. Sharing details of why a divorce is happening is unnecessary and won't bring them any peace. If anything, they will want to fix the problem or start asking too many questions. Keep it simple and stick to comforting them, rather than informing them.
  • Be age appropriate – How you tell your kids about your divorce is important. Very young children will have a hard time understanding the concept anyway, so keep it simple. Let them know you and your spouse won't be living in the same house anymore. If they ask why, they only need to know that sometimes grownups choose to live apart, even when they still love the kids. Make sure you tell them where the parent who is moving out will live. For older kids who will grasp the concept more quickly, you should still avoid getting into details. Let them know that it's not their fault—a common concern kids have. If they ask why, they only need to know that you're divorcing because you think you'll be better parents apart than together.
  • Choose your time carefully – There's never a "good" day to give your kids the news about your divorce. However, some times are better than others. Avoid special times of year, like birthdays and holidays for having the discussion. Set aside time when you know you won't be disturbed, and turn your phone off. Choose a location where your kids can feel okay to show grief and anger, or even lash out. Plan to stay with them until the worst has passed.
  • Prepare for fallout – Kids will have a lot of questions about their own lives, like where they will go to school, if they have to move, who will get them to practice, and more. Before you talk to your kids, try and have questions like these covered so you have an answer ready. More than anything, kids will need to be assured that they will be taken care of.
  • Keep the conversation going – Divorce isn't a cut and dry process. Your kids will probably have questions and issues to deal with in the long run. Reassure your kids that you and your spouse are always available if they have questions or are having a hard time dealing with the divorce as it plays out. Expect some days to be better than others. For your kids, the divorce is a very real loss and they'll need time to grieve and come to terms with it.

Even though a divorce is hard for kids, it is possible to go through a family breakup and be emotionally healthy. A lot of that depends on how you and your spouse handle it. Work hard to model strength and love, and even togetherness, while you share the news. Make sure your kids know that you and your spouse may divorce each other, but will never leave them.