There is no proven strategy of how to tell kids about divorce without causing heartache. Still, there is no way out of telling your kids about your divorce; it’s their right to know.
If you’re currently fretting over how to tell kids about divorce, we have a few ideas that you can use for this difficult discussion.
Key things to bear in mind before telling kids about divorce:
01Their age and level of understanding
When planning with your soon-to-be ex-partner about how to tell kids about divorce, it’s very important to consider the ages of your children.
Younger children will need more of an explanation than the older children, and their reactions will differ greatly.
You may need to tell the older children a different version of what you will tell your younger children; you may want to do it in separate sessions.
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02Their level of sensitivity
Different children have different levels of sensitivity, which is a trait that cuts across age brackets.
More sensitive children will need more prepping before being told the news than their less sensitive siblings, and they’ll require more reassurance in order to feel comfortable with the news.
Kids with low sensitivity may not react as you would expect, but you don’t want to assume that they don’t feel hurt.
03A show of unity
While preparing for a divorce, it doesn’t not mean not being able to stand each other; it’s smart to appear united in front of the children at the very least.
You do not want to argue in front the children or blame each other directly/indirectly.
Doing these things may make your children feel like they need to choose a side. It’s also possible that they may feel left out of the decision, which can be dangerous. It’s best to display unity, especially if you want to keep the family intact after the divorce.
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04Timing: when to tell them
There is no sure way of how to tell kids about divorce, but one way to do it correctly is by choosing the right timing for the reveal session.
You don’t want to expect to say your piece and get out of there. There will have to be feedback from the kids, and you will have to discuss it with them.
In almost every such situation, the kids are going to be feeling disappointed, sad, and/or angry.
You can expect these feelings and the appropriate reactions that accompany them.
You don’t want to stop a child from crying if he/she needs to cry, so you should be ready to give your child some space to process the news.
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06Prepare an answer to the question: ‘Why?’
It’s only natural that kids will want to know why you are getting divorced. For this reason, you should expect that they ask the question, “why?” You’ll want to be prepared with a solid answer for your children.
The actual answer to this question might be inappropriate to discuss with the kids, such as infidelity. For this reason, you’ll want to come up with a reason that is fairly honest and doesn’t embarrass either of you.
How to tell kids about divorce: When they are under 10 years old
01“You know that we love you, right? We love you very much, Toni. We have something to tell you, and it is not very good news. Mommy and I have decided to get a divorce, which means we’re separating from each other.
Do you know what that means? It means that Mommy and I will stop being married, and we will stop living together like we have been doing until now.
Do you understand that? We have our reasons for doing this, but we will tell you when you’re a bit older and bigger.
We don’t want you to worry, sweetheart. We are still going to be here for you at all times. We will continue loving you as always.”
Kids under 10 years old may not necessarily understand the meaning of a divorce, so this phrase works because it explains divorce as you talk about it.
The phrase also maintains a basic approach for easier understanding.
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02“Belle, you know how we always say that happiness is very important? It is true. If someone is not happy, they can become very sad and sick.
Mom and Daddy have been unhappy for a while, and we don’t want to get sick. For this reason, we have decided to separate so that we can be happy again.
By separate, we mean that we are going to stop being married, and we are going to stop living together in the way that we have been. Daddy and I are so sorry, my dear.
We don’t want you to worry so much because we will still take you to school, the ice cream parlor, and to your ballet lessons, as usual.
This phrase is good to use because it aligns the bad news with a need for happiness, which the child can easily understand. He/she may me able to better understand by making this correlation.
It also emphasizes the fact that life as a family will still be okay, which can help to ease the child’s mind.
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03“Do you know what divorce means, Andy?
Divorce is when two parents who love each other and live together decide to stop living together. They decide to separate.
No one wants to get divorced, but it happens to many couples. Andy, dear, Daddy and I have decided to get a divorce.
A few things are going to change because of that. We are going to start living separately from now on, and you will not see Daddy every day.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that we are still your mommy and daddy, and we love you very much.
We will always love you, baby, and we are so sorry to give you this news.”
This is a very good phrase to use if the child is still pretty young. It explains divorce for the child so that he/she can understand. It also emphasizes love and stability in one strong message.
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04“Baby, we have something to tell you. Mommy and I have decided to separate. We are going to get a divorce soon, and we are still working out some of the details at the moment.
We don’t want you to worry. Your Mommy and I have already planned for what will happen once we are divorced.
Yes, we are still your parents. Yes, we still love you very, very much.
We have already told your brother and sister, but we wanted to tell you in a special way because you are our special baby.
If anyone gives you trouble about it at school, you need to report it to us and the school, okay? Mom and Dad will always be here for you.”
This phrase emphasizes the parents’ love for the child. It avoids dwelling too much on the divorce and the bad news. It works really well for super-sensitive kids, especially when you call the child special.
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How to tell kids about divorce: When they are teenagers
05“Hey guys, we have some important news to share with you.
Very soon, you will be seeing less of both of us around the house because we have decided to part ways and get a divorce. We are getting a divorce in the near future.
We cannot tell you the actual reason, but all you need to know is that it’s a mutual decision and a shared feeling. We feel that its’ the best course of action going forward, for you all and for us both as parents.
It’s not an easy decision for us, and we hope that you can understand this.
For now, we just want to make it clear that we are not going to be the family that breaks into a thousand pieces because of a divorce.
We are going to make this work, and we need your support. Can we count on you?”
This phrase works because it speaks to the teenagers as if they were adults, and not children. It invites them to help the parents in this situation.
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06Most importantly, this message is straightforward, which makes it perfect if you prefer less displays of emotion.
“Kids, your mom and I have decided to go our separate ways and seek a divorce. We are deeply sorry for this; it’s the last thing that we wanted to happen.
Nonetheless, we both admit that we have failed you as parents, and we are so sorry to do this to you.
No child should have to go through this. Likewise, no parent wants to do this to his/her children.
That being said, we feel that it’s the best thing for the family. Both of us are prepared to contribute to the family and give our best efforts to maintaining a balanced family life.
The double punch of admitting that you’ve failed your kids and the emphasis on keeping the family together can make this phrase a winner. The speaker is bound to score some points when it comes to saving face.
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07“Mike, it’s true. Your mom and I are getting a divorce.
Things have changed between us, and it can happen to a relationship. Not to mention, it’s never easy to explain. This change has been developing in our relationship for a while.
We tried to fight for our marriage in different ways, but unfortunately, we couldn’t save it.
Our sole point of concern now is the wellbeing of you and your brothers. We are determined to make it work for everyone.
Your mom and I are still on friendly terms, and we will continue to parent you together, even if we’re separated.”
This phrase is good to use because unlike others, it endeavors to explain why you’ve chosen divorce from all of the options. It also helps to boost morale when you mention parenting together despite the divorce.
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08“This is going to come as a shock to you Dylan, but Dad has decided to move out and start a fresh new life. This is because Dad and I have decided to get a divorce.
You may not understand this now, but we’ve had some disagreements over the years that have become too big for us to handle.
We wouldn’t have taken this painful route if it wasn’t the only option left on the table. That being said, we don’t want you to worry. You will continue seeing both of us as much as possible.
If you have any questions about what will happen next, we are here to answer them.”
This phrase works because it hits all of the main points: the divorce announcement, the reason, and the apology.
Most importantly, it allows the teenager to ask questions and get answers from the parents.
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If there is one thing that all parents dread, it is how to tell kids about divorce.
As if divorce is not ugly enough on its own, parents have to put their children through the trauma of watching their parents split up.
Therefore, it’s important to know how to tell kids about divorce using the right words and approach. For that, you can use some of our ideas above for inspiration and guidance.