Telling children about divorce: Guidelines for parents

There are several guidelines parents should follow as they tell their children about their plans to end their marriage.

Many parents in California have concerns about how their children will cope once they decide to end their marriage. Although divorce can be difficult on children, parents can play a role in their children's ability to cope with the process, and it all begins with the initial discussion.

During the conversation

Parents who are preparing to end their marriage should follow these guidelines when they tell their children about their plans to divorce:

  • Provide simple, honest information--Children do not need to know the factual details about what led up to the decision. Rather, they need the facts about what is happening and how it will affect them.
  • Remain unified-- Those who tell their children about their divorce plans with their spouse should demonstrate that even though things are changing, both parents remain in charge.
  • Encourage the sharing of feelings -- Children will generally have many feelings and questions about their parents' divorce after they find out. Parents should listen patiently to the concerns of their children and provide reassurance.
  • Provide a positive outlook -- Many children sense that their parents are having a difficult time in the months leading up to the divorce. For this reason, parents should emphasize that ending their marriage will mean more peace and less tension.

After finding out about their parents' divorce, many children feel rattled and uneasy. Parents should remind their children that although the divorce is a big transition, not everything is going to change.

Following the discussion

After parents inform their children of their plans to end their marriage, there are several mistakes they should avoid making to ensure their children are able to deal with this change as easily as possible. For instance, parents should avoid using their children as messengers to relay messages to and from their former spouse. Instead, parents should find a method of communication, like email, that works best for them to remain in contact with one another.

Parents should also refrain from using their children as therapists to discuss their divorce and financial concerns and avoid criticizing their ex-spouse in front of their children.

Reach out to an attorney

In addition to worries about their children, parents in California going through a divorce may have concerns about how the process will affect them legally and financially. To ease their fears, those intending on divorcing their spouse should reach out to an attorney in their area who can provide guidance and assistance.