How to tell your children you're getting a divorce

Anya Meyerowitz
·3-min read
Photo credit: Karl Tapales
Photo credit: Karl Tapales

From Red Online

There are lots of difficult topics that must be tackled as you go through a divorce, but telling your children about it may be the toughest conversation of them all. Even if the announcement isn't a huge surprise — perhaps you're already separated or they've witnessed your arguing or conflict — it's only natural for children to want their parents and their family to stay together.

So, we sought the advice of psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member, Beverley Hills, who talked us through the key things to remember when approaching the difficult topic with your young ones.

Of course there's no perfect way to break the news, but Beverley's advice on how to tackle the conversation will help minimise misunderstanding and alleviate some of the sting.

Present a united front

The most important thing when telling the children that you are about to divorce is to do it together. Presenting a united front helps them to see that they don’t have to take sides; often children become conflicted; 'I love dad but mum doesn’t so that must mean I am bad.' This could possibly lead to a lack of trust with adults. Being united helps future proof their feelings.

It’s also good to remember to plan what to say together and be aware that you might get a mixed bag of emotions so prepare for all eventualities as opposed to going in blind.

Remember, the way you deal with divorce dictates how they will respond; showing anger or recriminations only teaches them that’s the way adults behave and therefore so must they. Acting together with grace and dignity will help them to realise that even though it's scary sometimes change is for the better.

Think through the logistics

Children are very practical and their first thought might be, 'where will I sleep? Who is going to take me to school?’ In order to reassure them, think ahead about the practicalities before telling them so that you are ready with answers to help them feel as safe as possible.

Don't go into too much detail

You don’t have to go into too many details by revealing sensitive information as to why you’re divorcing; infidelity etc. Too much information can confuse them and children don’t belong in your private arguments. Try to keep disagreements away from them, this also means watching your tone and body language in their presence.

Watch your emotions

By all means admit when you’re feeling sad but sadness doesn’t have to be bad. Sadness or sorrow are normal emotions and by doing this you also allow the children to admit to their own feelings.

If things are too hard to cope with, if you feel you are leaning on the children too much for comfort, a good idea could be to see a counsellor who can help you express your emotions in an adult way so they don’t spill over into your new family set up, after all, divorce is not the children’s fault so don’t make it their problem.'

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