For many people, the absolute hardest part about divorce is having to disprupt your children’s lives and having to explain to your children that their parents simply are no longer right for each other.

While there are many topics that should be covered as you explain your divorce to your children, there are a few things that almost all children need to hear when their parents are splitting up:

•    You are loved. You are loved by both of your parents, and you are loved by your friends and your family.
•    Your needs will be met. No matter which parent you are with, you will have a warm place to sleep, enough to eat, and the love and support you need.
•    We are here to listen to you. We are here to listen to your fears. We are are here to listen to what happened to you at school. We are interested in what you have to say.
•    It is okay to upset and angry. Divorce is upsetting for everyone, and for you of all people, it is normal to be angry at life and at us.
•    The divorce is not your fault. In fact, the divorce has nothing to do with you. In fact, the most upsetting part of this divorce for us is that you have been affected by it.
•    This is the right decision for us. A lot of thought went into it. Trust that we are doing the right thing. 
•    The important things will stay the same. Our love for you won’t change. Your friends won’t change. The dog will be here.
•    We will continue to talk to you about this. We will communicate what’s going on with you. This isn’t a taboo subject. You are an important, contributing member of the family who will be included.

Be sure that this isn’t the only conversation that you have with your kids – and that it’s clear that they can bring up the subject in the future, too. And, as always, consider therapy for your children if they are struggling with the transition.

Five Things Not To Tell Your Child During A Divorce

You’ve probably heard a lot of advice on how to tell your children that you are getting a divorce or how to speak with your child about custody and visitation. But is there anything that you absolutely shouldn’t say?

Here are a few examples of what you should never say to a child of any age regarding your divorce:

•    “Your mother/father is a bad person.” Your divorce is between you and your spouse – your children should not be involved in the private reasons that it did not work out. Even if your spouse has hurt your feelings, don’t make them out to be evil or uncaring to your kids. As hard as it may be, never badmouth your spouse in front of your children.
•    “Your mother/father doesn’t care about you.” It is extremely important that your child feels love and support from both parents during a divorce. Regardless of the details of your relationship with your partner, your child should understand that they are loved and that despite what the final custody plan is, both parents want the child in their life. If one parent is not interested in supporting the child, truthfully explain the circumstances preventing that parent from being there.
•    “The divorce is your fault.” Children are indeed sometimes a factor in a divorce in an indirect manner – they can cause financial stress, arguments about upbringing, or even emotional stress. However, a child should absolutely never be blamed for the breakup. If anything, the child should be reassured that the divorce had nothing to with anything that they have done.
•    “What does your mother/father do or say while I am gone?” Your children have been through enough. Do not ask them to gather information or spy for you. Not only does it involve them in your private issues, it will also force them to take sides.
•    “I don’t want to divorce, but your mother/father does.” This is private information that can confuse and distress a child of any age. And, again, it can force a child to take sides or enter the conflict.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington