Even if it’s ultimately the right decision for you and your family, breaking the news of your divorce to your kids is a tough thing to do. No one emerges from a separation or divorce unscathed, but it can feel like the end of the world to children – especially if they are young.

While a period of grief and sorrow can be expected during this transitional time, there are ways to minimize the pain, anger or confusion your child experiences when it comes time to tell them. With an honest and empathetic discussion, you can help your child to navigate their feelings and adapt to their new circumstances.

How to approach the divorce talk

When explaining your divorce to your children, it’s essential to devise a strategy of what and how much information you should share ahead of time. You’ll want to tailor your approach to your child’s age – younger kids may need little information and older kids may want more answers. HelpGuide recommends the following tips for addressing divorce with your children:

  • Be honest: You don’t need to share all the nitty-gritty details with your kids, but your approach should be straightforward and honest. Your messaging can be as simple as “we don’t get along anymore.” Be sure to reassure your child that the decision had nothing to do with them and that you both still love them.
  • Anticipate hard questions: Divorce ushers in many difficult changes for children to process, such as new living arrangements and seeing each parent less often. It’s important to acknowledge that while some things will be different, others won’t be. Allow them to express their concerns and assure them that you will face these challenges together.
  • Avoid the blame game:  While honesty is important, your kids don’t need the added stress of you and your ex’s conflicts. Tensions may be high with you and your partner, but you mustn’t put your children in the position of choosing sides.
  • Remind them it’s not their fault: Your child must understand that this is not their problem to fix. Many kids assume that they played a role in their parents’ divorce or believe that they can get them back together. Emphasize frequently that your divorce was an adult decision and had nothing to do with them.

Divorce is a hard adjustment for any family. But, with openness and a little patience, you can ensure you and your children get through it together.