How to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce can be one of the most daunting questions you are faced with. It often holds many people back from accepting and moving forward with the marriage ending. The thought of having to look at your little people in the eyes and tell them their parents are getting a divorce can be heart-breaking.
“How will they cope? How will they make sense of what is going on? What would I even say?” might be only a few questions rolling around in your mind.
My children were 4 and 5 at the time and we were not sure what to tell them. My former husband had been staying away and then one night the kids asked me ‘When is Daddy coming home?’ I took that as my queue to go with it, even though I was there on my own with them, now was the time. I had already decided that due to their age I would keep it simple.
I believe we can all keep it simple, we just have to want to, and we have to keep our emotions out, as hard as that is. Kids don’t need to be stressed or burdened with adult problems.
I also think it is important to know what NOT to say also. So here are the DONT’s first:
- Mummy doesn’t love Daddy any more
- Mummy did XYZ and it’s her fault
- Daddy is to blame because he XYZ
- Let your kids overhear conversations you’re having together or about the other parent (c’mon we have all done it, that girlfriend kinda vent moment)
Also, saying the D word, Divorce, doesn’t exactly roll off the adult tongue and sound that nice in our older brains or feel that great on any level. The thing is, divorce comes down the track, what is actually happening right now, is a separation. But do we really need to burden little people with these big and impactful words?
So here are my tips on how to tell your kids you are getting a divorce. Keep it simple by starting with the end in mind, which is kids that are thriving and adjusting in two homes that they feel loved and supported.
How to tell your children you’re getting divorced
Who should tell your kids you are separating?
I think it’s best if both parents can tell the children together and talk ‘with’ them, where possible. That also keeps Mum and Dad on the same page, saying the same thing.
What should you tell your kids about your separation?
That Mummy/Daddy won’t be living with us all the time anymore. Mummy and Daddy will have a new home soon, and when it’s ready, you will get a new bedroom. Try and put a positive spin on what ‘IS’ happening.
When should you tell your kids you are separating?
As soon as you’ve both decided the relationship is over. Sometimes parents have a ‘trial’ separation, or as I prefer to call it a ‘Pause’ and then who knows what is possible? What if you can get the right support and coaching and repair the relationship??
How should you tell your kids you are getting a divorce?
Pick a time of day when everyone is not too tired, and consider doing it on a neutral ground, eg in a park or even in the backyard.
Ultimately, you know your children best and focus on WHAT they DO need to hear. If we say ‘Daddy isn’t coming home ever again, or Daddy is leaving us’ (as typically, this is what happens, the Father moves out), then the child has to think of what is NOT happening before it can think about it positively. That is how our brains work. If I said to you, don’t think of the purple cow behind you right now, what did you think of? Did you move to check if the purple cow was there? We have to think of what NOT to do, before we can think of what to do.
It will be age dependent as to the who, what, why, when and how, and sometimes little people start asking more questions once they are more familiar with the words divorce and separation when their friends at school are in the same family set up.
Teenagers will hear different messages and pick up on what’s going on around the home sooner rather than later.
Our children’s brains aren’t fully formed until much later in life, and in the imprinting 0-7yrs, they don’t’ have the facility to question anything they are told until they are in 7-12 modeling period. Being aware of that is helpful. When children don’t have all the correct information they need, they ‘make things up’ that work in their minds to fill in the blanks. I am sure you’ve heard half-truths or stories from your kids before and part of it makes zero sense.
The biggest things parents need to know when talking to their children about divorce, is that it’s not the divorce that affects your children, but the conflict parents expose their children too. Children need to know that they are loved, supported and belong.
Remember, two happy homes are better than one unhappy and fighting home. Keep the conversations open with your kids at all times, as they will be your best guide with what they need to know.
If you’ve got any questions or want to read further, you can download my ebook ‘Why Mummy, Why Daddy’ on this link…
Here’s to amicable co-parenting for the sake of all our kids.