Four Ways To Prepare Before Telling Your Children

These four ways to prepare before telling your kids about divorce can make the conversation a little easier.

For parents who are considering separation or divorce, the thought of telling your children probably feels scary. You love your children and never want to hurt them, but you know that the news of your impending split will send shockwaves through their systems. Before telling your children, take some time to prepare for the talk you'll have with them. Doing so will help you to carefully consider how you should break the news, even if you know it will still be hard for your children to hear. If you and your spouse or partner are certain about your separation or divorce, here are four ways to prepare before telling your children.

  • Draft what you'll say. The news you're about to break up is huge for your family. Before telling your children, write out what you'll want to say. Having it written down will give you a chance to review and revise so that you can be extra mindful of what you plan to say. Talk to your co-parent about writing a draft together so that you both know exactly how you plan to tell your children. It'll help to know that you both are on the same page about how you want this talk to go. If you cannot convince your co-parent to write a draft with you, it may still be useful to write one on your own. You may still even want to share it with them as to invite them to read it so that they may be aware of how you plan to handle this talk. 
  • Consider what your children might ask. Children of all ages are likely to have questions, so make it your goal to anticipate these and have answers prepared. Young children may have questions that pertain more to their daily schedules like where they will live or will they still keep going to the same school. Answer these questions simply and directly as to ensure better that they know exactly how this will impact their day-to-day routine without getting too deep into the details. Older children may have more profound questions having to do with why the split is taking place. Be careful about how you answer those. Don't overshare or start playing the blame game in front of your children. Stick to your plan as far as how you'll handle questions that come up.
  • Carefully choose when you tell them. Scheduling this conversation for the right time is so important for many reasons. Telling your children right before sending them to bed or to school where they'll be on their own is not the best time to do it. Instead, choose a time where they'll get to be home and awake for a while afterward. You may consider sharing the news on a Friday before the weekend or some school break, except over holidays. If told over a special holiday break, the news could end up tainting the celebration over these dates, so try and avoid those kinds of school breaks. Knowing when you'll tell your children before doing so will also give you and your co-parent a chance to mentally prepare for the talk before you get to that date. 
  • Plan to stay united for your children. First and foremost, be sure that you are both there when you tell your children. It's not fair for one parent to bear the responsibility of this conversation when both parents are deeply involved in this decision. Second, do your best to set aside any differences you may have now to present a united front to your children. Even after you start living in separate homes, you'll remain a family on a particular level. Let your children know that, and reassure them several times over that you both love them and that this was not their fault. Don't assume they know this on their own. While they might, it still doesn't hurt to remind them a few times over. 

Before you tell your children that you're planning to separate or get a divorce, taking these steps to prepare can make a huge difference for both you and your children. If you're wondering what else can be done to prepare before you tell your children, consider talking to a counsellor or therapist who specializes in family or children. You can explain your situation and receive more direct guidance for how best to handle this talk with your family.