Family & Lifestyle

Difficult conversation starters: How to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce

Letting your kids know you’re divorcing is one of the most difficult conversations you’re ever going to have. While there’s no perfect way to break this challenging news, we look at ways to prepare for it.

There’s no easy way around this one – you can’t hide your divorce from your kids.

Even if the announcement won’t come as a huge surprise, it’s only natural for your children to want their family to stay together – and dashing that dream is tough on everyone.

We bring you some helpful tips to consider when talking with your kids about divorce.

Planning is key

First up, this is not the sort of conversation you want to improvise.

Even if you and your ex aren’t on great terms, it’s still important to formulate a plan of what to say ahead of time. Don’t worry, you don’t need to practise every word, but if the two of you go over the general messaging, the conversation is going to play out in a more positive way.

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Stay unified

Your kids will feel more secure if you present a united front, even if you and your ex don’t feel like one. Now’s not the time to share inappropriate details that might make things harder. Hearing conflicting messages from the two most important grown-ups in their lives would not only be inopportune, it has the potential be distressing for them.

By pointing the finger and laying blame, you’re inadvertently asking your kids to make a judgement against their other parent in your favour, which is not fair on anyone. If you do believe your partner was in the wrong, trust that your kids will understand this as they grow and witness their parent’s actions first hand.

Be definite and have some answers

Don’t drop this bombshell on your kids until you’re 100 per cent sure it’s happening, and be ready to support them regardless of how they react. Let their teachers know too, so they’re available if your children need some extra support at school.

While you won’t have the answers to all of their questions, it’s a good idea to figure out responses to some expected ones, like ‘How often will I see mum/dad?’, ‘Where will I be living now?’, and the most simple but profound question of all – ‘Why?’

Let the kids know the reason for your split is completely independent to them and is in no way their fault.

‘We grew apart’, and ‘your mum/dad is a great parent, but we just didn’t get along as a team’ are both good answers to this sticky question, even if they’re not entirely true.

It’s okay to keep some of the more complicated details from your kids. Just ensure they know that the divorce isn’t their fault, and your decision is final. It will take time for your children to process how they feel, and you should expect to have many more conversations with them throughout the process of the separation.

Put a filter on it

Only tell your kids what they need to know. If you’re unsure about a certain detail, leave it out of the conversation until you can be clear on the answer.

The bottom line? As the adults in this situation, you know why you’re divorcing. But your kids don’t need a blow-by-blow account of how your relationship fell apart.

If you’d like more support or information on the effects of divorce on children, Relationships Australia has some helpful resources available. If you need it, they’ll be able to put you in touch with counselling and support services in your state.

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