How To Talk To Your Kids About Divorce

October 13, 2019 O'Connor Family Law Divorce

We know that when starting a divorce, you are generally going to feel a mix of emotions, including anger, sadness, betrayal, and sometimes even depression. Your children, just like you, can feel many of these same emotions during your divorce process because it’s a breakdown of the family they knew. Taking care of your child is always a priority, but with so much going on and everyone’s emotions running hot, it can be hard to know how to do this well. Breaking the news of your divorce to your kids can sometimes turn their world upside down, so it is important to do it right. Kids are resilient and, if you can be strong for them, they have the best chances at bouncing back quickly.


You may think you are heading for divorce only to work out your marital problems and remain married. Before telling your children about this major change in your family’s life, be certain that it is really what you want. Unfortunately, fighting couples can often spit out the “D-word” to show how serious they are about not putting up with continued behavior without actually wanting to move forward with a divorce at that moment.  Unfortunately, putting your children through the emotions of thinking a divorce will occur when it may not, could deeply wound them and undermine the trust of your relationship with them.


Sometimes, this is just impossible.  However, it is usually best when you and your spouse can tell your kids about the divorce together. This way, your children hear just one version of the story, and that version should be something the two of you agree on beforehand. When children are told by both parents at the same time, it sends the message to them that the parents are not blaming them, and that both partets will continue to raise them together on a united front. While the face of your family will forever change after divorce, telling your kids about the divorce together will reinforce that you both love and care for them regardless of whether your marriage is ending and that will never change.


Depending on your child’s age and maturity, it is best to speak simply and in terms they will understand. It is also important to remain honest and straightforward about the situation and answer as many questions the child asks without making it too complex. And do not be afraid of not having all the answers.  If your kids ask who they are going to live with or what is going to happen, one of the best answers is, “We don’t know exactly how we are going to work everything out right now, but it is our responsibility to figure it out, not yours.  We are both going to do everything we can to make sure that you feel loved no matter what, even though we have some things we need to work through.  But we are going to work everything out.”


There are some things children will need to know about the divorce. They will need to know that their parents will not live together and, eventually, with which parent they will mainly reside. They will also need to know if they will attend the same school or they will be moving. However, they do not need to know that one parent had an extramarital affair or was irresponsible with finances. They do not need to know how much one parent is paying in child support or how one parent may be struggling financially with the split of the households.  They definitely do not need to know when you are going to court.  Many parents do not directly tell their children about these details, but forget that they may find out in other ways.

For this reason, it is important to keep divorce papers out of sight of children and to not speak about the divorce on the phone or with family and friends when children could overhear. If home visits are necessary for custody hearings, it is also important to not place a lot of importance on that visit when speaking to the children about it. Kids should not feel as though they are the decision makers – it can end up making them feel bad in the end or afraid they hurt a parent they still love.  This is much to heavy of a weight for them to carry as they grow older.


When children are experiencing major change and upheaval in their lives, they are much more likely to act out, completely withdraw, or exhibit other significant behavioral changes. Parents must monitor their children and stay on alert for these changes. If your child is exhibiting any of these changes, speak to them frankly about the divorce and encourage them to share their feelings and concerns. If necessary, put them in individual counseling so they have someone neutral to discuss their concerns, fears, and struggles with.


Divorces involving children are always challenging. If you are going through a divorce and you have kids, you already know you will face issues of child custody and child support, but you also need to focus on caring for your child and ensuring that they are prepared for these changes in their life. Our extraordinary legal team, all of whom have children of their own, will fight for the rights of you and your children to set you all up for success once the divorce is over.