Your children need to know that you and your spouse decided to get divorced. Since you started considering it, it’s the conversation you have worried about the most. How do you break something like this to them? What do they want and need you to say?
No two families are the same, so consider carefully what makes your situation unique. As you do, think about these different tactics to make things easier for them:
Always do it in person
Never tell the kids about the divorce in anything other than a face-to-face conversation. This is true at any age. Sit down and talk to them about it in person, giving them the chance to engage in an actual dialogue with you. They want to ask questions. They want to express themselves. They can’t do that if you call or write a letter or contact them in any other way.
Parents are sometimes tempted to do this because it seems easier and less confrontational, but it’s a huge mistake. If you want this to go smoothly, show them the respect and love they deserve by having the conversation in person.
Tell them with your spouse
Don’t do this alone. Don’t rush to be the one who gets to break the news. Don’t try to make it look like it is all your spouse’s fault and not yours.
No matter why you have decided to end your marriage, you and your spouse are still your children’s parents. Except in extreme cases — abuse, for instance — you both deserve to maintain a loving relationship with the kids. Have this conversation as a family. Let them talk to both of their parents and hear both sides of the story.
Don’t give them too many details
As with all conversations with your kids, honesty matters. However, that doesn’t mean getting rid of the filter and telling them everything. They don’t necessarily need to know the details of why the marriage failed and what happened between the two of you. Give them some information and tell them there are things you don’t want to discuss.
Remember their feelings at any age
People often assume divorce is easier for older children and especially for adult children. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking their feelings, no matter how old they are. The impact this has on their lives is still tangible. Remember their feelings and work with your spouse to make this easier for them. You have to put the kids first, whether they are 3 years old or 30+ years old.
The legal process
Once you decide to move forward with the legal process, make sure you know what steps to take. The more you can do to facilitate a smooth, simple divorce, the easier it is for everyone.