When it comes to the decision to divorce, parents tend to worry most about how to tell their children and how they will react. Whether you stick together to prevent them feeling pain, or delay telling them until they reach a certain age, there is never an easy way to broach a subject that may cause pain.

Each child is different and finding the appropriate time to communicate will vary, but ensuring the message remains neutral should surely be a priority. Fostering an ongoing atmosphere of mutual respect and control, prior to and throughout the separation, will no doubt help children to remain secure and stable.

A few suggested tips:

  1. Be honest but not too honest. Full details for the break up, at any age, are not necessary.
  2. Do not give them false hope. To continue to wish for a reconciliation in a few weeks or months, may result in further disappointment.
  3. Tell the children together and agree on what to say. Try to go through this together beforehand, and not to stray from what has been agreed.
  4. Be positive and kind towards each other during this conversation and going forward.
  5. Expect an emotional response. Whilst parents may have taken months or years to reach this decision, it may come as a complete shock to children.
  6. Reassure them. An understanding that this is not their fault and that their relationship with their parents will not change, will help them to adjust.
  7. Get them excited about a possible new home.

There are many helpful books for children, of all ages, to help them cope with the possible stress of separation. “The List of Things That Will Not Change” by Rebecca Stead, published recently, is highly recommended for early teenagers. The narrator, Bea is 12 years old and her parents are divorced. When her parents told her about their divorce, they gave her a book entitled, “Things that will not change”. The list included:

“1. Mom loves you more than anything, always.

  1. Dad loves you more than anything, always.
  2. Mom and Dad love each other, but in a different way.”

Bea ends up spending part of each week with each parent. The book deals sensitively with divorce separation, friendship and change. As Bea reflects when she returns to her mother after being with her Dad, “I thought how life with Mom and Dad was like a room with two big windows and two different moons”.