Telling the Children You Are Getting Divorced
Key Points
  • Telling the children about the divorce is one of the hardest things to do. No matter what age they are, it will certainly establish a point in time of "before and after" and they will question what will come next.
  • Breaking the news together or having one parent do it will depend on the current relationship each parent has with the child.
  • Children will have a lot of questions. Many of which you may not have answers, so be sure to be as honest as possible.
  • It is best to leave details out when asked why? Keep it simple and assure them that it is not their fault.

Telling the children that Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce draws a line in sand. Now, everyone -- Mom, Dad and children -- all know where they stand, and very often have no idea where they are going. Telling the children is one of the many very difficult bridges that divorcing spouses must cross. Plainly, children must be told, if for no other reason than knowing of the break between their parents is the first step in accepting this dramatic change in their life.

Depending on the family situation, children sometimes sense that their parents do not get along, and depending on the age and experience of the children, they may actually anticipate the divorce even when they cannot understand all its ramifications.

Research suggests that children reared in a high conflict home filled with verbal abuse and physical violence fare worse than children reared in a tension-free environment. For this reason, children may be "better off," so to speak, after their parents divorce than before. Nevertheless, the day his or her parents tell a child that they are parting ways will be traumatic.

Children can grow and thrive in a divorced home, provided they are under the right parental conditions. One of the first ways that a parent can help a child is by telling him or her about the divorce. A divorce affects children of all ages.

Following are some tips on telling the children:
  • No matter what the age, parents must tell the children what is going on.
  • Ironically, breaking the news requires the parents to come together in ways that tax their own self-restraint, but if one parent enjoys a very good rapport with a child, he or she may lessen the trauma by being the one to break the news.
  • Neither parent should do or say anything that a child can construe as assignment of blame. Nor should either parent do or say anything that might give him or her a reason to choose sides. No blame should be assigned to either parent for the separation, because this may give the child a reason to think there is a good and a bad parent.
  • A parent must explain to the children that they are not to blame for the divorce. Initially almost all children feel that they are responsible. The parent must explain that the divorce is between the parents and not the children and parents. If this is explained correctly, the children will also realize that they are not responsible for the divorce, so they cannot be responsible for their parents reconciling, which is a persistent notion that torments many children.
  • A child should never to told about a divorce unless the spouses are absolutely certain that the decision is final.
  • Breaking the news should happen on a day when everyone can be together for as long as need be. A day off from school is probably best because the children are going to feel lonely, and they need someone there to feel a sense of safety and security.
  • Children want to know what to expect, what will become of them. A child may want to know about school and future living arrangements. After breaking the news, a parent may, without going into great detail, want to give the children some idea what they should expect in the future. This may be very improvisational because the parents themselves may be uncertain about the future.
  • If children ask "why," this usually means why is this happening to me. It does not mean why are you getting a divorce. The children initially really don't need to know why, so eliminate details.
  • Children, like adults, assimilate a divorce at different rates, and questions percolate as the separation takes shape. Children may have questions, but will be reluctant to respond at that time.

Common Questions and Answers

Q. What is a great mistake parents make when telling a child about a pending divorce?

A. Trying to enlist the child as an ally or spy. Children love both parents by the entirety. A child asked to take sides faces divided loyalties that can tear him or her apart.

Q. What must a parent do when telling a child that a divorce is in the works?

A. A divorcing spouse must reassure the child 1) that he or she is still loved; 2) that the parent is leaving the spouse but not the child; 3) that the breakup is not the result of anything he or she did.

Q. What should a parent most avoid in telling a child about a divorce?

A. Trapping the child in the middle. Even under the best conditions, children suffer enormously when their parents divorce. Everyone knows stories of children caught in the withering crossfire of battling spouses, children who become proxies in a contest of vindication in the wake of failed marriages, children used as weapons or held hostage by parents who cannot stop fighting even after a marriage is over.

Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
How to Win Child Custody How to Win Child Custody
This is not your basic child custody book like most you will find in a bookstore. This book is for people who are in the middle of a custody dispute or feel as though there is a possibility of one in the future. This is a resource for those parents who are fighting for their rights and/or custody of their children.

Download Now

Recent Related Blog Posts
    All Child Custody Blog Posts

Related Article Archives
Child Support
Counseling Issues
Custody & Visitation
Parental Alienation
Tax Aspects
    All Article Archives

Related Categories
Child Relocation
Collect & Paying Child Support
Divorce & Pets
Divorce Laws
Grandparent Rights
Parental Alienation
Parenting Through Divorce
Paternity Issues
    All Categories
Related Forums
Child Custody
Child Removal
Child Support
Domestic Abuse
Grandparent Rights
Helping Children
Stepfamily Issues
    All Forums

Resources & Tools

Bookstore Promotion Discount

Start Your Divorce Online Start Your Divorce
Several Options to Get Started Today.
Divorce Tools Online Divorce Tools
Keeping it Simple to Get the Job Done.
Divorce Downloads Download Center
Instantly Download Books, Guides & Forms.
Divorce and Custody Books Discount Books
Over 100 of the Best Divorce & Custody Books.
Negotiate Online Negotiate Online
Settle your Divorce and Save.
Custody and Support Tracking Custody Scheduling
Make Sure You Document Everything.
CHILDREN’S REACTION – A child’s adjustment to divorce depends upon (1) the quality of their relationship with each parent before the divorce, (2) the intensity and duration of the parental conflict, and (3) the parents' ability to focus on the needs of the children in the divorce.
Start Divorce
Custody Scheduling and Tracking

Children In Between - Online Parenting Class

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:


Featured Book How to Win Child Custody

How to Win Child Custody

How to Win Child Custody


Featured Download Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

Parent's Ability and Willingness to Cooperate: The Friendly Parent Doctrine, As a Most Important Factor in Recent Child Custody Cases

Guarantee Official PayPal Seal Facebook Twitter Versign Secure Site