One of the things that many couples dread the most when they've decided to divorce is breaking the news to their kids. Whether the kids have sensed that this move is coming, or it's a complete shock to them, that conversation with their parents will probably end up being one of the most memorable events of their childhood -- perhaps of their entire life. That's a lot of pressure on parents, so you need to strategize how you're going to approach this conversation.
Of course, how you break the news and how much you tell them will depend in large part on their age.
- Very young children (up to 5 years old) will need a simple explanation -- probably with an emphasis on where they'll be living and reassurance that they'll still see both parents and that both will continue to love them and take care of them.
- Kids who are a little older and up to the preteen years (about 6 to 11) will likely have more questions. However, again, straightforward, simple explanations are generally best. Their concerns will likely revolve around how their lives will be impacted and how much they'll see each parent.
- Preteen and teenage kids (about 12 to 18) will be able to better understand the reasons for a parental breakup. However, that doesn't mean you have to share details with them they don't need to know or that might make them feel differently about a parent. Encourage your kids to share their feelings with you as the divorce process plays out.
It's best when parents tell their kids together. They should hear the same message from both parents. This also helps reassure them that even though you won't be living together any longer, you'll still be co-parenting them. This should be a family discussion -- even if your kids vary significantly in age.
Often, parents want to have their custody and visitation arrangement agreed upon before they tell their kids about their impending divorce. However, if your kids are a little older, you may want them to have a say in how their time will be split. They should never be asked to choose which parent they want to live with, however. Your family law attorney can likely provide some advice and resources for you as you prepare to talk to your kids about your divorce.