Family Law

How Should I Tell the Children About the Divorce?

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Discussing divorce with your kids.

Discussing Divorce Plans With Your Spouse

There’s probably not much you and your spouse can agree on if you’re getting a divorce, but it’s critical to your children’s well-being that you present a unified front. This doesn’t mean that you and your spouse won’t argue about things like custody and property division in court. But you can help your kids through the process by creating a game plan of how and when to discuss your divorce with your children.

For example, you and your spouse might decide to postpone divorce discussions until after the holidays. Or in other situations, the holidays might be the perfect time to talk about your impending split because the family will all be together. If you and your spouse can discuss your divorce plans rationally, you may be able to minimize some of the emotional impact on your children.

Discussing Divorce With Your Kids

Once you’ve decided to discuss your divorce plans with your kids, make sure you’ve picked a neutral time and place. It’s best to be honest with your kids without going into too many unnecessary details. You’ll probably need to assure your children that your love for them will never fade even if your love for your spouse has.

Your children may take the news hard or in stride. You know your kids best. But it’s important to remember that either response from your kids is normal. Divorce represents a major upheaval in their lives as well as yours. If your child’s sadness over the news persists for more than a few weeks, it may be time to seek the help of a licensed therapist. In many cases, it may be a good idea to reach out to a child therapist before you discuss the divorce with your children.

Helping Children Cope With the Permanence of Divorce

Many kids in split families have visions of the “Parent Trap” coming to pass in their own family. Your kids may struggle with the fact their life will never be the same. You can help your children by fostering their relationship with their other parent. A parent’s biggest mistake in a divorce is putting the kids in the middle of their own emotional battle.

Keep the kids out of your arguments with your ex. No good can come of highlighting the bad qualities of your child’s other parent. One exception is if you suspect that your ex is physically or emotionally abusing your children. Any incidents of abuse should be reported to your attorney and law enforcement immediately.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My spouse wants to tell our children about our divorce at Thanksgiving, but I don’t want to ruin the holiday. How should I handle this?
  • My kids have taken news of my divorce really badly. They are blaming me for the breakup. What should I do to help them understand?
  • I suspect my spouse abused my children. I’ve already filed for divorce but how do I approach the abuse allegations with my kids?
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