How to Explain Divorce to Children

Preparing a child for a divorce is rarely an easy task. However, if you and your spouse are getting divorced, it’s a necessary one.

It also doesn’t need to be as challenging as it may seem. Again, that’s not to say it will be completely unchallenging, but explaining divorce to children can be relatively less stressful if you keep the following points in mind:

Be Certain You’re Getting Divorced

This may seem like an odd tip, but it’s actually quite important. It’s not uncommon for spouses to go through difficult patches that appear to be leading to divorce, only for them to reconcile their differences and manage to stay together. Avoid confusing your children by not telling them about the potential of getting a divorce until you are thoroughly certain you will be getting one.

Don’t Expect a Positive Reaction

While there are some instances when mature children respond neutrally or even positively to the news that their parents are divorcing, as they may recognize this is the best decision for everyone involved in the long run, in general, you should probably expect your children to be upset when you break the news.

That’s not meant to worry you. It’s simply critical that you prepare yourself for their reaction. If you don’t, there’s a greater chance you’ll respond to them harshly or dismissively when they get angry, confused, or sad.

Keep in mind that the effects of divorce on children can also be somewhat long-lasting. Additionally, some of the ways in which children may respond to their parents getting divorced don’t manifest right away. Don’t assume this process will be as simple as breaking the news to them once and then moving on.

Be Ready to Turn to Resources

Going through a divorce is already a stressful and emotionally draining experience for you. Don’t add to your burden by assuming you need to handle the task of explaining divorce to your children alone. 

From family therapists to school counselors, there are many resources available to parents and children in these circumstances. Be ready to leverage them if it appears necessary to do so.

Make Sure They Don’t Feel Responsible

You likely already appreciate how critical it is to ensure your children know they are not the reason you and your spouse are getting a divorce. However, this is such an essential point that it deserves to be included on this list.

Be Honest

You need to strike a somewhat delicate balance when explaining divorce to your children. On the one hand, they have a right to fully understand the implications of divorce. You don’t want to give them false hopes by “sugar-coating” the truth. 

On the other hand, there are almost certainly details surrounding the circumstances of your divorce that you don’t necessarily need to share with your children. Answer their questions honestly when discussing your divorce, but use your judgment when deciding which details to exclude.

It’s also important that you not allow yourself to focus so much on the task of explaining divorce to your children that you end up ignoring other significant tasks right now. 

For example, you also need to find a strong family lawyer to protect yourself during this situation. Remember, divorce is hard on kids, but it’s definitely not easy on adults either.

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