When to Tell Your Children about Your Decision to Divorce

It is important to plan what you say to your children in advance. Since divorce is such a major life change, it's wise to have several conversations with your kids. Here are seven key issues to cover:

• Tell your children that when you were married you loved each other, so they won't feel they were conceived in anger.

• Tell them that they are not responsible for the separation and divorce, and highlight specific examples. For instance, "We are not getting a divorce because you didn't put your toys away."

• Ask your children what they think the word "divorce" means. You may be surprised by what they say.

• Tell them that you and their father will have separate homes, but that you will both continue to be their parents.

• Tell them about the custody and visiting arrangements you have in mind. Ask for their suggestions and assure them that you will consider their needs and wishes to every extent possible.

• Don't deprecate or scapegoat your spouse. Explain that because you and your husband can't make your marriage work, you've decided to divorce to help everyone in the family.

• For teenage children, tell them you want them to be happy in their relationships and eventually succeed in their marriages. Say, "I know you will be a loving young woman and will choose the right partner."

• Offer ongoing support. Explain that divorce is a "conversation for a lifetime" and is a subject that should remain open between you and your child.

Copyright 2003 Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. Excerpted by permission from the book What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee (Published by Hyperion; March 2003).


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