How to Explain Divorce to a Child

explaining divorce to children

How to Talk to Your Children About Divorce

Your children are going to be highly impacted by your divorce, and it’s more than just figuring out a child custody plan for them after the split. This is a significant change in their lives. There are a few things you should know about how to explain divorce to a child.

When explaining divorce to a child, it is important to be honest and straightforward. Depending on the child's age, you may need to tailor your explanation accordingly. It is also important to remember that each child will react differently to the news. Some children may be upset, while others may be relieved.

It is typically best to tell children about a divorce as soon as possible. However, if one or both of the parents are still in the process of deciding whether or not to get divorced, it may be wise to wait until a decision has been made.

Don’t tell them you’re planning to split up until you’re 100% certain and the process is underway. You don’t want to string this along or confuse the kids. In either case, it is important for parents to be consistent with their explanation, and to answer any questions the child may have.

Tips for Explaining Divorce to Children

Some general tips for explaining divorce to children include:

  • being honest and truthful
  • explaining why the divorce is happening
  • remaining positive and reassuring
  • allowing the child to ask questions
  • taking into account the child's age and developmental stage

Explain Divorce to a Child Together

It’s also good to tell your children while you’re both together. Don’t race to be the one to do it or do it on your own and risk spinning the “story” in your own favor. Remember that you may want to end your involvement in each other’s lives, but you’ll both still be involved in the children’s lives. They deserve to hear it from both parents.

Finally, don’t blame anyone. Don’t blame yourself or your spouse. Never blame the children; in fact, it’s best to stress repeatedly that it’s not their fault. You may privately blame your spouse, and that’s fine. Again, though, your kids will still be involved with both of you, so you don’t want to make it appear that one person is to blame and the other is not.

Kids will have a lot of questions after you break the news, especially about the child custody plan and where they will live. Be sure you know how this legal process is going to work.

Source: Baby Center, “How to tell your child you’re getting divorced (ages 5 to 8),” Ziba Kashef, accessed April 07, 2017

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