The Wrong Way to Tell Your Kids About Divorce

Mother and son playing on a park bench while kid is holding up a book with delight


Your kids are smart, and they’re probably more perceptive than you give them credit for. They’ve most likely figured out already that your marriage isn’t happy, and that you and your spouse will end the relationship. That being said, the news still might be difficult for them to hear.

Read on to learn the right ways to tell your kids about divorce, and the things you should absolutely avoid saying.

Don’t Just Blurt It Out

Announcing your divorce to your children is a big step. You want to think carefully about what you say and how you say it.

It can help to write down what you plan on saying to your kids. Divorce can turn your emotions upside down, and sometimes you might not think before you speak. Writing down what you want to say will help you avoid something you’ll regret later.

Although it might be difficult to talk to your ex-spouse, it’s important that the two of you coordinate what you’re going to say. And as much as you might blame him or her for the end of your marriage, that’s not something you want to tell the kids.

Don’t Explain It Using Concepts Kids Can’t Understand


Even if you think your three-year-old is the next Einstein, their ability to understand a complex subject such as divorce is still quite limited. While you need to explain to them that you and your ex-spouse aren’t going to be married anymore, do it in a way that’s appropriate for their developmental level.

Toddlers and preschoolers need simple, concrete explanations. And you can’t expect them to understand what you’re talking about on the first try. Tell them that one parent will move out, where the child will live, who will take care of them, and how often they’ll see the other parent.

Don’t expect older children to just accept the news. You’ll need to explain to them that it wasn’t their fault, and there isn’t anything they can do to help you and your ex reconcile. Otherwise, they might think this is a possibility, and it will take longer for them to heal.

Don’t Provide All the Details

It’s tempting to tell your kids exactly what led up to the divorce, especially if you blame your ex-spouse. Don’t give in to that temptation, though.

Your kids don’t need to know all of the reasons behind the divorce. Let’s say your spouse cheated on you. Your kids might not be old enough or mature enough to understand what that means. What you need to remember is to look at the situation from your children’s perspective. Maybe they’re aware of the conflict between you and your soon-to-be-ex. However, the news that their parents’ relationship will end represents a change in their lives. What your kids really need to know is how the divorce will affect them, and the changes that will take place in their lives.

Don’t Share the News Unless You’re Sure


Maybe you and your spouse have been discussing the idea of divorce, but haven’t reached any kind of conclusion. You think that maybe you should tell your children – don’t they need to know?

Unless you and your spouse have decided that you are definitely going to divorce, don’t tell your kids. Your children don’t need instability in their lives, and the mere possibility of divorce will most certainly introduce that very unwanted element. Wait until you’ve made up your minds, and then break the news.

Need Advice on Handling Children’s Needs During a Divorce?

Going through a divorce can disrupt children’s lives. Experienced divorce lawyers can help you and your ex-spouse minimize those disruptions so your kids can grow up without constant conflict or emotional trauma.

Galbraith Family Law lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice, and we have been named the top firm by the Barrie Examiner multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.

Click here to contact us, or to schedule a consultation. Or you can call the local office listed at the top of the page.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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