How to tell your kids you’re getting divorced

Tell your kids about divorceBreaking up is hard to do. But talking about it might even be harder. There’s a right way and a wrong way for divorcing parents to spill the beans to their kids. This is the conversation no parent wants to have. But if you find yourself in that boat, experts have some advice that might minimize the blow.


Put on a united front

Have the conversation together, as a family. Kids need to see that their parents can “put aside their differences for the benefit of the children,” says Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder of the National Parents Organization. “The best way to teach children is by example.”

Answer their questions

Providing some certainty in a time of total flux is reassuring to children.

“The more information (the kids have), to some degree, the better,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

But don’t get too specific

Kids of all ages will want to know what happened. Make like a politician and be prepared with vague answers.

“They don’t need to know what’s wrong and they won’t be able to understand what’s wrong,” Holstein says. “Just tell them that mom and dad ‘need to be apart so we can take care of you better.’”

No name-calling

Leave the put-downs for the meetings with the divorce lawyer. Even if your husband or wife was a lying, cheating scoundrel, your child should not hear about it.

“Children still need a good mother and father,” Saltz says. “If you say, ‘Your father is a horrible person,’ that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good dad, but you are essentially taking him away from them in their head. He’s the villain now.”

Reassure your kids about your love for them

“The most important message is, ‘We both love you, we both are gonna be here and that will never change,’” Saltz says. Also: make it clear that youngsters will still get to spend lots of time with the other spouse.

Tell them it’s not their fault

They need to know that they did not do anything wrong and could not have prevented this, Holstein says.

No fantasies about the future

Do not say that you might get back together until “you decide you’re walking down the aisle again,” Saltz says.

Acknowledge it’s a sad time

Don’t try to hype it up by telling children that they will get two Christmases or two holidays. “That’s not gonna fly,” Holstein says.

It’s healthy to acknowledge the losses in life. But balance that by reassuring children that their lives “are going to be good,” Holstein says.


Learn More About Divorce


This article, written by Meredith Engel, originally appeared on