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How to explain divorce to kids

By Karen Holford 1 min read

Q: How can we explain our divorce to our kids?

It's important to tell your children the news when you’re all together at home, in a time and place where they can express their feelings honestly. Describe what will happen honestly, calmly and lovingly. Tell them about your plans for their future, such as where you will all live and what will need to change. Listen to their thoughts and ideas: they need to know their wishes are important to you as well. Be prepared for them to express their fears, frustrations, anger and concerns. Take time to answer their questions and comfort their distress.

Be thoughtful about how you describe your divorce. Children who are told, “We just don’t love each other anymore” can become insecure if they feel, even for a moment, that either parent has stopped loving them too. Children who are told, “We argued too much” may feel anxious if they argue with either of you. “Daddy/mummy loves someone else” can make them wonder if you’ll suddenly love someone else better than them too, especially if the new partner has children.

Focus on the following points when talking to your children about your divorce. Most children need to know that you will both:

  • continue to love and support them.
  • put your children’s emotional and relational needs above your own personal needs and preferences.
  • speak respectfully and kindly to and about each other.
  • plan when and where they will spend time with each of you and give them plenty of warning if there’ll be any changes.
  • involve them in any decisions about their living arrangements.
  • keep the promises you make to them, to help them feel safe and secure.
  • manage your couple conflicts kindly and respectfully.
  • be at their significant life events, such as graduations and weddings.
  • involve them in any decisions about your new potential partners before committing to another relationship. It’s vital for your child’s wellbeing and safety that they have warm, positive relationships with any step-parents and step-siblings.

Make sure you have both done everything possible to make your relationship better before choosing to divorce. In 10 to 20 years time, children often want to know that you went for help and tried couple counselling before breaking up their family.


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Any advice given is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and must not be relied upon as such. For any healthcare advice, always consult a healthcare practitioner.

Karen Holford has masters degrees in child psychology and family therapy, but the best learning about family and relationships has always been from her husband, children and grandchildren. She is the author of "52 Ways to Parent Happy Children".