How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting a Divorce: A Useful Guide

Getting divorced can be extremely difficult for all parties involved. You can learn more here about how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce.

Divorce rates range from 40 to 50% of married couples in the U.S.

If you’re figuring out how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce; you’re not alone. 

Deciding to end your marriage can be difficult enough. Facing your kids and telling them that things are changing can seem even more impossible.

The way you tell your kids that you’re getting divorced can affect how they react to the news. It can even impact your relationship with your kids going forward.

Take the time to plan out your conversation and work with your partner to make the conversation as easy as possible.

Keep reading for tips on how to tell your kids you’re getting divorced.

Consider Your Child’s Age

Your child’s age is a determining factor in how much you tell them and how you say it. A toddler can’t understand a divorce the way a teenager can, so you’ll need to adjust how you explain the changes.

School-age kids and teenagers are more likely to know about divorce and have friends whose parents are divorced. They may also already realize there’s tension in your marriage.

Choose words that your kids can understand based on their age. It’s best to start simple and explain further if your kids need clarification.

Keep Your Child’s Needs in Mind

Age can affect understanding, but your child’s temperament and special needs can also impact how you break the news.

Some kids need a little more comforting and a gentle approach to hearing bad news. Others want to hear the news straight.

If you think one child might handle the news poorly, you might find it easier to tell your kids individually. This can be an issue, particularly if there’s a big age gap. An older child who understands what’s happening might have a strong reaction that upsets a toddler who doesn’t know what’s going on.

Come Up With a Plan

Work with your partner to decide how to break the news. Each family is different, so you need to create a plan that fits your family.

Agree on when and how you’ll tell the kids about the divorce. Decide on how much detail you plan to give them. By being on the same page, you avoid one parent saying too much and causing more conflict.

It’s usually best to provide as little detail as possible to your kids. They don’t need to know all of the details, especially if the divorce is a difficult one.

Presenting a united front is important for protecting your kids. Even if you don’t both agree with the divorce or you can’t stand each other, putting aside those differences for the kids can make the process easier on them.

Time It Right

It might feel wrong to withhold information from your kids, but waiting until you’re sure the divorce is happening can make the process easier.

If you tell your kids you’re getting divorced only to change your mind; it can leave them feeling uncertain or insecure. 

Waiting until you have a plan means you can tell your kids exactly what to expect. You can let them know which parent is moving and how that might affect them.

Having the details worked out can also help you better answer questions the kids might have. If you’re filing for child custody, you’ll have an idea of what that might look like for the kids.

Consider what’s going on at the time you tell the kids. Choose a time when they’ll be receptive and able to process what you’re telling them.

Wait until you can take your time to explain the situation and answer their questions. Your kids might want want to talk extensively about the divorce, or they might need lots of comfort.

Avoid telling them before they have to go to daycare or school. This can rush the process, and they might feel upset being separated from you right after hearing the news.

Stay Calm and Avoid Blame

If you get along well enough with your spouse well enough to be in the same room, tell the kids together. This ensures your kids get one unified message without any confusion or different stories from each parent.

This also shows the kids that you’re planning to work as a team. You can let them know that even though you’re not going to stay married, you’ll both continue caring for them.

Never blame one another in front of the kids. It’s normal to be emotional when you share the news, especially if the kids react emotionally. Try to keep things calm and avoid arguing or letting things turn angry.

Encourage Questions

Your kids might start asking questions naturally. They want to know how the situation will affect them and what’s going to happen. Younger kids might not fully understand what’s happening.

If your kids don’t ask questions on their own, let them know that it’s okay for them to ask anything. Encourage them to ask questions in the coming days and weeks as they have more time to process the news.

Provide Reassurance

Even if your kids have heard you argue, knowing that you’re getting divorced can be stressful and upsetting. Provide reassurance after you tell them the news.

Let your kids know that you tried working things out, but this is the best way for you to handle the situation. Let them know that no one is blaming anyone else and they shouldn’t feel like they have to choose sides.

Explain that it’s normal to have lots of different feelings when parents go through a divorce. You might talk about the different emotions, such as anger, sadness, and worry, that they might feel.

Reassure your kids that you are still a family even though that will look a little different going forward.

Continue providing the reassurance throughout the divorce process. You don’t want to bug your kids about how they’re feeling, but check in with them regularly to see if they need extra support.

Figuring Out How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting a Divorce

It’s never easy to decide how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce. Being calm, patient, and loving while you break the news and being aware of how your kids react to things can make it a little easier.

For more relationship advice, check out our archives.

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