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How to approach the topic of divorce with kids

Any married couple in New York who decides the relationship is no longer in their best interest faces the difficulties of sharing that decision with those in their lives. For parents, breaking this news to children can be one of the most difficult conversations. However, it’s also a critically important conversation which deserves time and care to prepare to share this news.

Children will undoubtedly face the effects of their parents’ divorce, but you and your soon to be former spouse can prepare to make this transition less of a harsh break. No two families are exactly the same, so all parents should tailor this conversation to their own family dynamic. Here are a few key reminders for any parent to consider before approaching the topic of divorce with kids.

Think ahead about your message

This conversation should ideally not happen out of the blue. Sometimes it’s one last disagreement or difficulty that makes a couple decide to split, but even in that moment it’s important to consider the potential repercussions in springing this topic on your children without preparation. When possible, think about what you'll say and how you’ll say it before sitting down with the children.

The words you use may stick in your child’s mind for years to come as they replay this conversation in the future. There’s no way to perfectly plan how the conversation will go, but you and your spouse can take the time to consider the effect your words may have down the line.

Prepare for a reaction

No matter how long the marriage’s problems date back, a divorce is a major event for a family to cope with. Kids can have any number of responses ranging from sadness and anger to joy and relief. Every child will process this news uniquely, so try to consider their viewpoint as you have this discussion.

Stick to a plan

Even though this conversation focuses on your children hearing the news, the parents still hold the responsibility of guiding the conversation and its aftermath. When it’s safe to do so, consider keeping the family together immediately after the conversation. If one parent leaves right after this talk, it can send a message of a fractured family instead of a cohesive group. Despite the couple breaking up, the family is still one unit in many cases.

No matter how the children react, stick to your plan in maintaining a normal schedule after the conversation. Their family is changing, but everything else doesn’t have to. If you can, have this conversation over a weekend or another time when there’s a flexible schedule. This gives you the option to give kids space when they need it but you’ll have an upcoming reminder of normal life. Going back to school and activities can give them a chance to focus on other aspects of life that aren’t changing.

No parent can perfectly prepare for telling children about a divorce. However, when it’s possible and safe to do so, taking the time to consider the ramifications of this conversation may give them the best chance at taking the news in stride.

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