How to Tell the Children

If you have children, you should NEVER talk about the possibility or certainty of divorce in front of the children until the two of you, as the parents, have made the decision and can tell the children together. Do not discuss the Child Custody until you are ready to tell them together.

Sometimes, the adult, husband or wife in you will want to tell the children separately from your spouse about the divorce.  That is the adult in you that wants to do that, not the parent.  The parent in you recognizes and understands that it is going to be incredibly important for the two of you to tell the children together and to create a plan for how and when to tell the children.  Just as the two of you set the tone for your divorce, the two of you also set the tone for how the children will handle the divorce.

When to Tell the Children about Child Custody Dallas, TX

Once the decision has been made that you are going to divorce, the two of you, as parents, need to decide when to tell the children.  It will be important that your children have time to process the information rather than rushing off to school or an extracurricular event.  You should consider waiting until the weekend (Saturday or Sunday) to tell the children.  The conversation should take place earlier in the day rather than later.

Ideally, both of you should be present for the conversation and both of you should participate in the conversation.  This conversation is not a time for arguing, blaming, or dredging up past misgivings; it is a time for Mom and Dad to be there for their children during a difficult moment.  Both of you should commit to not disparaging the other parent when telling the children.  It is okay if one or both of you become tearful.  If you become too overwhelmed, excuse yourself, recover and then return to the conversation.

The conversation with the children should take place prior to either parent moving out.  Do not be surprised if the children are worried about the parent that is moving.  They may ask questions about where that parent will be living, whether it will be close by, when they will be able to see them after they move, etc.

Where to Tell the Children

Parents should tell the children at home, if at all possible, instead of in a public setting.  If the child or children have been seeing a therapist, the therapist’s office may offer additional support for the children.  Consider discussing with the therapist whether it would be better to have the conversation in their office or at home about Child Custody Dallas , TX

What to Tell the Children

The two of you should plan and discuss, ahead of time, what will be said to the children.  In an ideal setting, the two of you would practice saying your words out loud to each other or to someone close to you so that you have at least said it once out loud.  It is imperative that you both tell them that they are not responsible for the divorce and that both parents love them.

Give the children time to process the information in the way that their little hearts will process it.  Sometimes children process it right then and sometimes it takes children up until bedtime to ask questions, or even days later.  Ideally, both parents should be present throughout the remainder of the day so that the children can come to them for support and to answer questions.

Children will likely experience a variety of emotions after hearing the news, such as denial, abandonment, preoccupation with information, anger/hostility, depression, preoccupation with reconciliation, blame, guilt, acting out, and stages of grief.  Younger children (ages three to five) may ask if they caused the divorce.  They will have questions such as where are they going to live, who are they going to live with, and who will take them to games and other events.  You should be prepared to answer general questions with age appropriate responses.  If you do not know the answer to a question that they have asked, let them know that you don’t know the answer yet but that as you know you will let them know.  If changes are coming, prepare them in an age appropriate manner.

During this time, be careful that you do not tell the children that something is going to be a certain way when you do not really know that yet.  Early in the divorce process, you do not know if one spouse will continue to live in the house or if it will be sold.  You do not know how the parenting time schedule will work out.  There may be things that you “hope” will happen (I want to continue to live in the house), but make sure you only convey facts to the children (Mommy and Daddy will be deciding where we will each live. We do not know yet.).  Also, NEVER discuss adult matters with the children.  This includes the financial settlement, affairs or sexual issues, or custody arrangements.

In the days following the news, the children may approach you with questions.  Again, reassure them that it is not their fault.  It is important to support them through any necessary changes, but try make as few changes as possible and stick to their routines.  Make sure they see both of you as often as possible.

What NOT to Tell the Children

Here is a list of tips for what not to tell the children, courtesy of Children in the Middle(

It is important for parents to know and understand the power that their words have with children.  It will be incredibly important going forward that words spoken allow the children to love both parents.  I always tell parents, “If what is about to come out of your mouth will make your children have to decide between right parent/wrong parent, good parent/bad parent, do not say it.  Rethink it and say it in a way that allows your children to love both of you.

Do not say: “I do not love him or her anymore so it is best we do this.”  On a very basic level children see them as half Mom and half Dad.  I have actually experienced a child saying, ‘Mom said she doesn’t love Dad anymore.  Is there a chance she will stop loving me?’

Do not say:  “Mommy and Daddy still love you and it will be just like it’s always been except we live in different homes.”  Things will not be just like they have always been.  They will not be able to see each of you every day.  They will not have the same experience of having both parents in one home ever again.

Do not say:  “Remember how we disagreed on how we should take care of you, well now we are going to let the judge decide who was right.”  Remember, children should never have to decide who is right and who is wrong, or who is good and who is bad.  The ultimate decision of how your children are parented is up to the two of you, unless you show the court the two of you cannot create a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children.  If you cannot, then the judge will make a decision and it will not support either of you being right or being wrong.  It will be the judge’s plan for your family, not yours.

Do not say:  “Everything will be all right, you’ll see.”  In their little hearts and minds things will not seem all right for many years to come.  Based on the level of conflict you and your spouse go through, it could take your children years if not a lifetime to recover.  On the same note, staying together in a high conflict marriage can also create a lifetime of recovery for your children. Studies have shown that children fair better when their high conflict parents divorce rather than their parents staying together.   Things will not be all right.

Do not say:  “You can still see them whenever you want.”  If the two of you are living next door to each other with a swinging gate in between your homes this may be true.  Or if you live across the street from each other, this may be true.  Otherwise chances are there will be days that your children see each of you but rarely both of you.  Unfortunately this may be a reality of their lives going forward.

Do not say:  “I will have my time with you, and he/she will have their time with you.”  Unfortunately professionals who work with families going through a divorce have seen that when these statements are made, it means that the children have to adjust to the parents’ schedules rather than the parents continuing to adjust to the children’s schedules as they did when everyone lived under one roof.  The children will still have the same schedule and it is still not “your time”.  You life will continue to revolve around your children’s schedules.  It is a large concern to specialists when we see parents saying no to birthday parties, extracurricular activities and other events because it is “their time”.


Reprinted with permission from Children in the Middle, (