Here are some guidelines for telling your children when you have made the decision to separate or divorce:
- Tell them shortly before they will see the change (typically a few days before one of the spouses moves out).
- Try to have the whole family present (both spouses and all children).
- Within the bounds of propriety, be honest. If at all possible, and if you can do it without assessing blame, tell them what you can about why you are divorcing. One of the most frequent complaints of children of divorce, even long after the divorce, is that they never heard any reason why their parents divorced.
- Tell them as much as you know about when one of you plans to move out, and when they will next see the parent who is leaving.
- Tell them as much as you know about how their lives will change (where they will live, where they will go to school, where the dog will be, etc.)
- Reassure them that they did not cause the divorce.
- Encourage them to ask questions, and assure them that they can ask questions later as well.
Your children want to know . . .
Here are some questions children often ask or think about when their parents divorce:
- Will I be left alone?
- Where will I live?
- Will I ever see Daddy (Mommy) again?
- What happens if I get sick?
- Will I stay with my brothers and sisters?
- If I’m really good and never act up again, will Daddy (Mommy) come back?
- Who will feed me? Will I have enough to eat?
- Now that Daddy (Mommy) is leaving, will Mommy (Daddy) leave soon too?
- My friend _____ had to move to an apartment and share a room with a brother or sister when her parents divorced. Will we do that too?
- What did I do to cause this? Maybe it was (some recent transgression). Or maybe it was (something else they’ve done wrong recently). I’ll make sure I never, never do that again, and then we’ll all be together again.