If you and your spouse are moving toward separation or divorce, one of the things you’re likely dreading the most is telling your children. This is a conversation that will probably impact how they feel about the situation and both of you and one they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Therefore, when and how you do it are both very important.
When should (and shouldn’t) you tell the kids?
Typically, the sooner you do it, the better. Kids hear and sense more than many people realize. If they think you are hiding something from them, they’re less likely to trust you at a time when you most need their trust.
If one of you is moving out, you should tell them before that happens. Be honest about whether you’re moving toward divorce or just taking some time apart. Don’t give them false hope.
It’s best to have a parenting time schedule agreed upon before you talk to them. That will be one of their primary concerns.
There are some important “don’ts” about when to tell your children as well. If you can avoid it, don’t tell them over the holidays or on any day that’s special to them, like their birthdays. Don’t tell them close to bedtime or in a public place.
How to tell your children is important
It’s always best when parents can sit down with their children together at home. Have a plan for what you’re going to say. You know your kids and how they’re likely to react.
Focus on the fact that you’ll still be their parents – not on what went wrong with the marriage. Don’t use this time to blame each other or to accept blame. Present this as a joint decision, even if it wasn’t.
Be prepared for your children to be angry at one or both of you. Don’t encourage that, even if you agree with them. If a child blames your spouse for not being home enough or yelling too much, stand up for them, even if they’re right. Maintain this attitude, even when “the talk” is over.
If you need some guidance in preparing to tell your children about your break-up, your family law attorney can likely provide some guidance. They can also help you work to put a parenting schedule in place even if you’re not ready to work out a custody agreement yet.