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How to Talk to Kids About Divorce

Did you know every year around 1 million children experience the effects of parental separation? Several studies have proven that children of divorce experience high levels of depression, anxiety, aggression, lower academic achievement and trouble forming personal relationships. 

It’s never too soon to start talking about divorce with your children. To help them know that it is okay to feel angry and upset, explain that feeling sad or upset is normal when significant changes happen. This will also allow you to understand better how they think about the divorce. 

Even if the involvement of the child is limited, and the spouses have discussed visitation or custody, children may still feel confused or worried about their parents’ separation. They need reassurance that everything will be okay, and help in dealing with the changes to come.

Here are some things to remember if you are going through a divorce and have kids.

Common words

In order to talk to kids about divorce, it helps to use wording that they’re familiar with. This way, you can minimize confusion and upset.

For example, if your child asks you what “divorce” means, you might say: “When two people who love each other decide they want to live separate lives.” Or if your child asks why the family is no longer living together, you might say: “Because mommy and daddy aren’t getting along anymore.”


Even if you’re going through a divorce, even if their other parent is gone for good—you should still be there for them. This is especially true for kids under seven years old. They need reassurance from you that everything is going to be okay, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment.

Here are some tips on how to talk to kids about divorce:

Don’t sugarcoat anything: Don’t tell your kid that “divorce isn’t all bad” or “divorce will make everyone happier.” The truth is, divorce isn’t all bad and won’t make everyone happier—it just means that two people will be living apart instead of together anymore. Instead of lying about what’s happening, try saying something like: “I know this feels scary right now because we don’t know what’s going on yet.”

Don’t criticize the divorced spouse 

Regardless of who you think is at fault, don’t speak negatively about the person who is no longer in the family home. Children need to understand that both parents are valuable and good people, despite their divorces.Some parents think it is not important to talk about the divorced spouse, but actually this is very wrong. Kids should have the understanding of both their parents, so that they don’t feel confused and lost in this situation.

Confirm, respect and encourage your kid’s emotions and feelings.    

When parents decide to separate or divorce, kids often feel sad, angry and confused. Children need respect for their emotions and feelings. It is easy for kids to feel like they are losing both parents at the same time, so talk about the breakup in terms of what is best for your family overall.Children of all ages may have a lot of feelings when they hear that their parents are getting divorced. It’s important to help kids express these feelings with you.

How you interact with your ex matters

 It’s never easy to talk to your kids about divorce, but it’s important to remember that how you interact with your ex matters. For example, research shows that children of divorced parents who experience positive interactions with both parents tend to have better outcomes than those who do not.Your kids may not be sure where they belong anymore, so help them by being clear and consistent. Make a plan before you speak with them about the divorce, whether you plan to say it together or on your own.

Don’t ask the child to keep information from the other parent. 

   Don’t ask your child to keep information from the other parent or encourage the child to talk about the other parent in a negative way. You should also avoid asking your child who they love more, either of you or the other parent. These types of questions may be confusing for them and cause trouble between you and their other parent.

Parenting is not a game to win or lose. If you are going thorugh a divorce and want to discuss on parenting during this phase, then click here to know more.

Special Delivery: Talking to Kids About Divorce

It is estimated that 1 million children a year experience the effects of parental separation, the often-overlooked casualties of divorce. The homes they live in may be sold; they may have to change schools and say goodbye to friends; their lives are basically turned upside down. 

During this time when families are separating, the wife and husband can be very absorbed in their own emotions and out of touch with what’s going on with their kids’ feelings, leaving the kids to cope for themselves with the tremendous upheaval in their lives.  

It can be a huge emotional weight on children. Numerous studies have shown that children of divorce experience high levels of depression, anxiety, aggression, lower academic achievement and trouble forming personal relationships. 

But it is possible for people who need to get divorced to do so in a dignified manner that won’t cause trauma to their children and to address the emotional hazards of divorce in children before problems manifest themselves. 

Here are some suggestions for divorcing parents: 

Deal with the divorce in a “common language.” Come up with wording that both of you will use to talk about the divorce. Doing so will help reduce confusion and upset. 

Don’t ask children to make decisions regarding visitation or custody. This is a parental decision, made, if necessary, with the help of a mediator or the court. To ask children to choose between homes or whether they want to visit the other parent this weekend places a huge burden on the children and requires that they reject one parent for the other. 

Reassure your child. Kids often fear that both parents will leave them after a divorce. They blame themselves for the split. They worry about where they will live and who will care for them. Let them know the living arrangements, if possible after they are already in place. Make sure the children know that their parents’ love for them will never change. 

Don’t criticize the divorced spouse in front of the children. Doing so is also criticizing the child because they share half the genes of that parent. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything.  

Confirm, respect and encourage your child’s feelings. All feelings are OK. The more children verbalize their feelings, the better.     

Give your child plenty of love and positive reinforcement. You’re likely to be dealing with a bruised sense of self, which needs some tender loving care.  

Fight out of earshot of your child. It’s often difficult to do this, given the heightened emotions of divorce. But put your kids ahead of your emotions. If your partner will not agree to this, be prepared to leave or hang up if a verbal conflict escalates.  

Treat your ex as a business partner in the business of raising your child. Interact with your former spouse in a way that keeps the child’s interest as priority. 

Accept that your child needs to have feelings of loyalty to both parents. Don’t try to win him or her over to your side. Work to minimize the child’s feelings of being split or divided.  

Don’t ask the child to keep information from the other parent. This sort of complicity is confusing and emotionally burdensome to children and implies betrayal. 

Parenting is not a game to win or lose. If you would like help learning different ways to parent through a divorce, please don’t hesitate to call. 

Recommended Reading

Good Parenting Through Your Divorce, by Mary Ellen Hannibal

The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart, by Constance R. Ahrons

Children of Divorce: A Developmental Approach to Residence and Visitation, by Mitchell Baris and Carla Garrity

Divorce and New Beginnings: A Complete Guide to Recovery, Solo Parenting, Co-Parenting, and Stepfamlies, by Genevieve Clapp, Ph.D.

The Parents’ Book About Divorce, by Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

Divorce: A Problem to be Solved, Not a Battle to be Fought, by Karen Fagerstrom, Ph.D.

Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way, by M. Gary Neuman

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications