I’ve written in my previous posts how to tell your kids that you’re getting a divorce. What I want to focus on in this blog, is what to tell and not tell your kids about the specifics of why you are getting the divorce.  Although the content will vary by age and emotional development, there are some guiding principles to consider:

  • Be honest:  Being honest does NOT mean sharing every gory detail. Being honest means you don’t intentionally mislead your child about the divorce. 
  • Be age-appropriate: This is one of the most important things to understand about what to tell and what to hold back. A child’s age and development should guide what they are told. Chronological age is not the only consideration; a typically developing 12-year-old can hear and understand more than a cognitively delayed child of the same age. The language you use should also depend on your child’s development. You might say to a 4 year old, “Mommy and Daddy fight too much” whereas you might say to a 14-year-old, “Mom and Dad are fighting too much. We realize it isn’t healthy for us to live together anymore when we can’t work out our problems.” 
  • Remember that you can’t “unsay” anything:  Once you’ve said something, it’s out there for good. Do not tell your child about an affair so that you can be the sympathetic figure in the divorce. This will only do damage to your child’s relationship with both of you in the long run. You are always allowed to say, “We had adult problems that we couldn’t work out.” They can understand ideas like “our feelings have changed”. 
  • Agree on what you want to say:  Talk ahead of time about what you want to say and how you will answer specific questions. Agree that you will only provide age-appropriate information that will be helpful.  
  • Let them know it wasn’t their fault: All kids need to understand that the divorce wasn’t their fault and that it wasn’t something they could have changed. They also need to understand that even if grown ups can stop loving each other, parents never stop loving their kids.

It is a difficult conversation to have with your kids, but if you are both on the same page, it will also be an opportunity for you to show your children that you can handle this divorce respectfully and minimize their emotional trauma.