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How To Tell Your Kids That You're Getting A Divorce

Photo: Unsplash: Jake Hawkes
How To Tell Your Kids Their Parents Are Getting A Divorce

Did you know that January is divorce month? More people file for divorce during January than during any other month of the year.

Experts say that the holidays can make even a good relationship difficult so people who are in struggling relationships often decide to call it quits once the holidays are done.

Once you've made the heartbreaking decision that you and your spouse are getting a divorce, the next step is figuring out how to tell your kids about it.

And this step, I believe, is the most important one to get right.

Divorce is hard — hardest, some could argue, on the children involved — so helping them through this transition as a team it is the best gift you and your soon-to-be ex-husband or ex-wife can give them.

Of course, the way you handle telling the kids you about your divorce will vary a little bit different depending on the specific age(s) of your child(ren), but there are five basic principles every parent can follow regardless of their kids' ages.

RELATED: 8 Ways Getting Divorced Teaches Kids About REAL Love

Each of these principles can be adjusted according to your individual children and their ages but I believe they apply to all children.

Here are 5 tips on how to tell your kids their parents are getting a divorce.

1. Tell them as a team

To be honest with you, when my husband and I decided to divorce, I took on the task of telling my kids alone. It was just the way it worked out, because both of my kids were away at school and we weren’t all going to be together for a while, so I had to tell them each individually.

I wish I hadn’t had to do it that way. My kids had two parents and it would have been best for them, best for all of us, to sit down as a family in order to discuss what had happened and what was happening.

Make every effort possible to get the kids together with both of you there so the conversation can be had with everyone involved present.

I feel like my kids would have felt better supported if they'd have been together and if they'd have been able to look both of their parents in the eye.

One of the most important things to remember from the very start of your divorce process and onward is to do everything you can to make sure your kids feel loved and supported by both of their parents.

They need to know that while the two of you will no longer be husband and wife, you will forever and always be a team as their parents, keeping their best interests in mind.

2. Tell them the truth

Parents understandably want to shield their children from pain, and while the truth may be painful, it’s important to be completely honest with your children about what is going on.

The nature of your marriage, the way you handle the divorce process, and how you navigate the next phase of your life will have a tremendous impact on who your children are and the relationships they form in their own lives. They need to know the honest truth from their parents right from the beginning.

I don’t mean that they need to know every sordid detail, but they do need to know that Mommy and Daddy will no longer be married or living in the same house. Don’t sugarcoat things or tell half-truths to keep your kids from feeling hurt. The sooner they know the full truth, the easier it will be for them to deal with and adjust to their new reality.

Be open and clear with your children about what is going on. Tell them if Mommy or Daddy is moving out, any details around the separation that are relevant to them — such as temporary custody agreements and the like — and anything you feel they absolutely need to know.

Lying to your kids is the worst thing you could possibly do for them. They will find out the truth someday ... guaranteed.

RELATED: The 10 Most Damaging Things You Could Say To Your Kids During Your Divorce

3. Tell them it’s not their fault

I can promise you that, no matter how hard you try, at some point your children will question whether or not your divorce is their fault. Children are, by definition, self-centered, and this holds true for both the good or bad.

I can still remember how, when I was young and my parents fought, I always thought it was my fault and that if I acted just a little bit better they would get along.

The truth is that children are never the cause of a divorce, and as an adult, you hopefully know this, but it's important to say so explicitly to your kids — over and over and over.

So, don’t say it once, and don’t say twice. Say it as many times as you need to say it throughout the divorce process, so your kids really hear and believe that it’s not their fault.

4. Tell them without anger

With divorce, comes anger. Often, lots and lots of anger.

No matter how justified those feelings may be, it's important that both parents work as hard as they possibly can to prevent that anger from surfacing during your "we are getting a divorce" talk with your kids. This conversation will be difficult for everybody, but if you can keep extreme anger out of the conversation, it will be helpful for all of you.

Anger is scary for anyone, and especially for kids, as is the prospect of their parents' divorce.

If your kids can see their parents treating each other with kindness and respect as the process begins, it will help mitigate their fears of what it is that's about to happen.

5. Tell them you will answer their questions

This is the most important thing that you can do. Tell your children they are free to ask either of you questions, now and/or later.

You may have prepared the perfect speech to tell your children about your impending divorce, full of loving words, lots of truths and promises that everyone will be okay. If so, that’s great!

But it’s important that after you finish delivering your perfect speech, you open the floor to the kids for their questions.

I can promise you that your kids will have lots and lots of questions — perhaps not right in this moment, but over time and going forward.

So, as you support them on this journey, allow them the continued opportunity to ask questions, then answer those questions as clearly and honestly as you can.

The questions your kids ask you will shed light on the things they've been thinking about, so they should never ignored and should always be addressed head on.

Telling your kids you are getting a divorce is something no parent wishes they will ever have to do, and now here you are, having to do just that.

It’s not going to be easy, I know. But it can be done in a way that's thoughtful, respectful and open.

Choose a time when you can all be together, tell your children the truth, make it very clear the divorce is not their fault, manage your own emotions and be open to any and all questions they might have.

Having their parents go through a divorce can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of their world.

Be the same, loving parents you've always been, and continue taking care of their needs and concerns during this difficult and confusing time.

You can do it!

RELATED: How To Tell Your Kids About Divorce (Age By Age)

Mitzi Bockmann is a NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate whose writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. She works all kinds of people to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live, so email her now to get started.