Parents planning to divorce face an uncomfortable challenge in having to relay the news to the children. Because kids have lived their entire lives with both parents in the same home, learning of the split can be devastating. Younger children might not understand what is going on and older kids can get resentful.
If possible, both parents should be there to discuss the matter with the children. Ideally, you will take time to plan out what you are going to say and how you will handle the situation.
Consider your child’s age
The information that you present to the children needs to be appropriate for their ages. You likely don’t need to discuss the cause of the divorce except to remind your kids that it didn’t have anything to do with them. Younger children will likely need to know more about what is going to happen from here and older children might want to delve into the gritty details of the new living arrangement.
Decide when to tell them
It is best to have a time to discuss this when they don’t have to rush to an activity. They will need time to process the information. It is also a good idea to avoid having these discussions when they are going through something else that is stressful. For example, telling a teenager that their parents are divorcing might not be a good idea during midterm exams, finals or standardized testing.
Develop a basic parenting plan
Before you tell the kids about the split, you and your ex should come up with at least a barebones parenting responsibilities agreement. This enables you to give the basic plan to the children when you let them know what’s going on. This doesn’t have to be anything intricate. You may want to say that you intend to have the kids split time between parents and that rules like curfew or bedtime will still apply.
Be prepared for questions
Allow the children to ask questions. It is important that they feel secure with what is going on. The best time to do this is when both parents are there. However, you should be ready to answer questions anytime they come up. If you don’t know the answer or need to discuss something about the question with your ex, let the child know that and be sure to follow up. Additionally, don’t provide false information, promises or hope to the children.