How you should explain divorce to young children

Michelle Roses, Raising two daughters

You tell them the truth. Within reason. I did this a few years ago.

“Your dad and I aren’t happy living together. It has nothing to do with you. We both love you so much. We can’t be the best mom and dad to you when we live in the same house. And we both love you so much we want to be the best mom and dad we can be. We need to do this by living apart but we will both always be in your lives and your mom and dad.”

  • You don’t blame.
  • You don’t insinuate it’s one parent’s fault over the other’s fault.
  • You don’t drop hints at fault.
  • You do not allow in laws or other family members to chime in or handle it.
  • You talk in person, not over text or phone.
  • You have a plan before you talk to your kids, ex: Mom will live here and dad will live down the road. We will both take you to school. We will both attend your recitals, etc.
  • If you don’t have answers, you tell them you don’t know and will figure it out along the way.
  • Don’t act like everything is fine or will be fine because it’s not. It’s going to hard for you, your ex and the kids.
  • Explain you are going to be working at getting along better and, no matter how much you may hate your ex, or are angry, never let your children know this.
  • You and your ex must present a united front and answer every question they have with appropriate answers, ex: How will we do birthdays, what about holidays, will I ever see you again, is it because I didn’t listen, do you still love each other, do you still love us?
  • Never act like you will get back together with your ex unless you both agree it’s a possibility. False hope is cruel.

You never, ever, ever make an adult problem a kid problem. Ever. You adult with your own parents or friends or attorney. Your children should never be exposed to things you’re angry about. Even if you’re right and the other parent is wrong, this is still the father or mother of your children and your children have a right to love them unconditionally.

Know, if you try to use the children as pawns or manipulate them into being mad at their mom or dad, or telling your kids the terrible thing mom or dad did, it will backfire every single time. Your kids will resent you in the long run and you will lose their trust.

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