How to Explain Divorce to Your Child


Divorce is an emotionally charged topic full of questions and feelings that can often be hard to put into words. This makes explaining the complexities of divorce to children one of the most difficult conversations for a parent.

It is important to approach this conversation with care, as it could have lasting effects on your child's emotional growth. Whether you have recently gone through a divorce or are preparing to explain it in the future, it will help both you and your child if you take some time beforehand to consider what needs to be said during this discussion.

Plan How to Say It

It’s essential to remain calm and plan before sharing the news of divorce with children. If possible, sitting down with your spouse and agreeing ahead of time on a brief summary of what you want to say is recommended. This allows you to ease your children’s worries by showing that you both are still dedicated to being their parents.

Consider discussing the following topics with your spouse beforehand and how you two will deliver this information to your child:

  • Reasons for the divorce
  • What will change/stay the same
    • How soon will changes begin
  • What topics pertaining to your divorce will not be brought up
  • How you will reassure your child they are not at fault and are loved

In cases where it isn’t possible for your spouse to be present for this conversation, still take the time to prepare what you want to say and even where you want to tell your child. Taking this step can help assure your children that their needs will still be taken care of despite the changes ahead.

Cater to Their Age Group

When talking to your children about delicate topics like divorce, it is important to consider their age and maturity. Knowing how much they can handle will help ensure that you do not overwhelm them by providing too much information. If they are younger, simplify what you say and use words they can easily understand. For older children, you may be more direct while still expressing understanding and sensitivity towards their feelings.

Use Empathy & Tell the Truth

Try to speak empathetically and address the most important points right away. Do your best to offer honest explanations without passing judgement on anyone involved. Be sure to also avoid any information regarding finances. Your child may also begin to ask questions and answering truthfully while reassuring they will still be cared for and loved can help ease worries.

Avoid Bad-Mouthing Your Spouse

It's natural to want to explain the reasons behind the separation to your child. Especially if recent events leading up to the divorce have been emotionally charged, it can be difficult to avoid sharing them. However, sharing negative remarks about a spouse can potentially impact how safe a child feels with the other parent. A child may feel like they must take sides and can be encouraged to think badly of one parent. To help avoid this outcome, take steps to be cautious with what information you provide, and try not to appear critical.

Explain Changes

It's natural for children to feel anxious or confused when changes arise in their lives. By addressing the changes honestly and acknowledging them upfront, you'll help your children feel heard and prepared.

A few changes to explain to your children may include:

  • If a parent will be moving out, and if so, when
  • Where your child will live
  • Who will look after your child
  • How often will your child see their other parent
  • If your child will be attending a new school
  • School pick-up and drop-off schedules
  • Holiday celebrations
  • Upcoming court dates

Remind them that it won't all be different - some things can remain the same. You can take each detail step-by-step and provide assurance that they'll have what they need to thrive despite the changes around them.

Be Reassuring & Listen

Even if it may seem simple, reminding your child that your love for them remains constant is an incredibly important message to convey. Show them that you will still be caring for and supporting them in every way during this challenging time. It’s also essential to stress that the separation is not their fault; this reassurance can go a long way in protecting their sense of self-worth and helping them cope with the transition.

Once you’ve broken the news to them, focus on actively listening to your child and offering a safe space for them to communicate how they feel, whether through verbal expression or through tears, anger, etc. An open conversation allows for two-way communication where questions can be asked and answered without judgement. Remember to continue listening to your children and being communicative and reassuring throughout and after the divorce. This can be an emotional transition for children and they will need your support.

Whether you are planning to divorce or have been served papers, divorce can be a difficult time in your life and your child’s. It’s important to remember to be honest and reassuring as you support your child in this change.

Navigating divorce can be an emotional and stressful process, but you don't have to go through it alone. At Jetton & Meredith, PLLC, our team of divorce lawyers can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have pertaining to child custody, support, and more. We understand how challenging this time can be, which is why we'll work efficiently to get you a favorable outcome.

Call today at (704) 931-5535 to schedule a confidential consultation.