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How to tell the kids Mom and Dad are divorcing

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is telling the children that their parents are splitting up. While even adult children are affected by their parents' divorce, young children, adolescents and teens usually have the most problems accepting the "new normal." Below are some guidelines for the best way to break it to the kids.

-- Parents shouldn't announce they are divorcing until it becomes inevitable. While nothing is set in stone and reconciliations can and do occur, both parents should be steadfast in their decision and tell them together. This provides reassurance that mom and dad are still united in parenting the kids and prevents one parent from being shunned as the bearer of bad news.

-- Don't play the blame game. Keep it simple, stating that problems within the marriage that have nothing to do with the children make it impossible for mom and dad to continue living together.

-- Allow the kids to ask questions and be as honest as possible without oversharing. Let them know that it's okay to be sad or angry and upset.

-- It's best not to get into details that can only confuse them or make them take sides. State that while they both still love their children, they are no longer happy together and will live apart from now on. Don't give them false hope for reconciliation; state that the decision was reached after efforts to work things out failed.

-- Make sure they understand that both parents roles in their lives won't be changing. Kids need the stability of rituals in their lives to feel grounded and safe.

-- When changes are inevitable, discuss that, too. If a parent is relocating, or the children will be moving households or changing schools, expect them to be both upset and angry. Explain that both parents will do everything they can to make the transition smoother for them.

If the children appear overwhelmed, ask your family law attorney for a few referrals to counselors who specialize in helping kids cope with divorce.

Source:, "Telling Children About Divorce," Richard Niolon PhD, accessed April. 30, 2015

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