Question of the week: How do you tell kids the parents are getting a divorce?


Recently I was visiting with a man whose wife had told him two weeks before that she wanted a divorce. This man was devastated. He and his soon-to-be ex wife had in mind what they wanted to tell the children. I’m glad he asked about what to say because he was getting ready to make a huge mistake. His meeting with the children was going to be too long and very complicated.

When telling the children about an up-and-coming divorce, a lot depends on

  • The age of the children
  • Any special needs issues
  • Family dynamics

How to tell the kids

  • Experts tell us it is important for both parents to come together to tell the children about the up-and-coming divorce.
  • Find a place that is comfortable with no distractions. In other words turn off all electronics.
  • Be up front and honest when talking to the children.
  • Speak slowly and distinctly so the children can grasp what is being said.
  • Keep it short the first time the parents talk to the children.
  • Explain where the children will be living.
  • Explain where each parent will be living.
  • Ask if the kids have any questions.
  • Tell the children you will be having another meeting in a few days to see if they have any questions.

What not to do

  • Children don’t need long and lengthy details.
  • They don’t need to know who is to blame or sordid details.
  • They do not want to hear parents arguing when being told about the divorce.

Future meetings

  • Offer to take the children to see where the other parent will be living.
  • Tell the children that divorce is an adult problem.
  • Tell the kids the divorce is not their fault.
  • Ask if they have any questions.

Every family is different so parents need to craft their conversation to the specifics of their family.

How have you advised parents who have come to you asking about how to tell the children?


3 thoughts on “Question of the week: How do you tell kids the parents are getting a divorce?

  1. Excellent practical advice for something horrible in a family.

    This news will devastate their children and life will never be the same. It shatters their security, identity and can set them up for years of hurt. I know because I minister to ADULT children of divorce.

    I believe it is absolutely imperative the parents do not argue, get defensive, or try to prove one parent is more to blame than the other.

    Make the children the priority and focus on how they are feeling at the moment of this tragedy in their lives.

    Expect first reactions of tears, anger, deep woundedness, and hard questions. Don’t try to justify your decision. Just know that this decision will affect them all of their lives. Be ready for anything and keep yourself as calm as you can. Let them vent.

    One more thing….please be absolutely sure that both parents have done all they can to get help for their marriage before saying anything to the kids. Kids deserve their parents’ best effort.

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