How to Tell Children You’re Getting a Divorce

figures w divorce in the middleOnce the level of suffering and pain has become intolerable, when dreams have been shattered and hope for the future has been lost, one or both of the parents may decide to divorce.

Telling the children is an undertaking of great importance: lives will be changed.

After wrestling with this gut – wrenching decision to divorce, most parents desperately dread the idea of making the announcement. Some parents make the mistake of allowing the children to find out when one morning the children awake to a catastrophe – Dad and his belongings have disappeared into thin air.

In any case, the children will remember this day for a lifetime and reassess the understanding of it at every stage of their development. Conversation done fully and well will ease the pain and comfort them: conversations done poorly will profoundly add to their confusion, anxiety, and pain.

And this devastating conversation takes place at a time when the parents are angry, hurt, and in torment themselves.

Here are several suggestions.

1.Bring both parents and all the children of appropriate age  together and tell

the children that you have decided to divorce. Do not meet with them one

parent at a time as they need to see the parents together and observe your

body language and hear the inflection of your voice as each parent

contributes to the discussion. Meeting with them alone invites favoritism and

promotes confusion and suspicion.


  1.    Speak slowly and simply.  Remember they will hear what you say, how you

say it, and what you  don’t say.


  1.   Choose a quiet time when you and they can have a lengthy conference

without interruption. Turn off the TV, telephones and computers. Watch out

for the distractions and pressures of pending homework, business telephone

calls, arriving guests, and other disturbances


  1. Make sure that you frame the conversation as a final announcement not a

pending decision.  They will hope and fantasize that you will change your

mind and will continue to do so for some years.


  1. Ask them what they understand about divorce and their friends’

experiences with it. As painful as it may be, encourage them to speak up about

their fears,  anger and concerns: they may have some misconceptions that

you can correct. Some children will be frozen into silence.

Even so, their minds will be running at full speed.

Expect that they may lie about how they feel to comfort you,

especially if you have been crying during the discussion.  They

may also be concerned about having little or no input into the decision making

process. Not paying enough attention to their wishes often leads to a

combination of anger and  powerlessness which can undermine their initiative

later in life and can result in resentment that carries through deep into



6 .Assure them that they did not cause the divorce nor can they fix it. Also that

they are still loved by both parents, that they are the best parts of the

marriage, and that you will continue to take care of them until they are grown,

just as you always would.


7.Schedule a follow up meeting to discuss future plans after everyone has had

a chance to think things over. At that meeting promise to keep them informed

with details of what’s happening currently and events that are coming.


  1. Arrange for a time to take them to the new surroundings. Remember to

repeat some of the information as young minds can’t assimilate information

on one  or two hearings.


Know that this will be one of the worst days of their lives.

Will this plan of intelligently going through a family meeting counteract the effect of this

massive disappointment for the children? No it will not.

But it will go far in reducing the fear, suffering, and loneliness of the crisis.