Telling your children that you and your spouse intend to divorce involves striking the right balance. You must tell them as soon as it is practical so they do not hear it from another source. However, you should not discuss the possibility of divorce with your children, or in front of them, until you have committed to the decision. You should tell them as much as they need to know about the situation but not go into messy details.
As the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, you need to tailor the message according to your children’s maturity, which can be its own challenge if you have children at different developmental levels. How you talk to your kids about divorce depends on your family’s situation, but there are two points that are most important to make.
The divorce is not their fault
It’s common for children to feel like the divorce is somehow their fault. That is why it’s so important to make explicitly clear to them that they are not to blame for your divorce. Explain that the cause was adult problems requiring an adult decision. Be proactive about making this point because children may internalize the feelings of blame and guilt without talking about them openly.
The children are safe
Safety and security are basic needs and ones that children are likely to fret over during a divorce. Be honest with your children that their lives will change as a result of the divorce, but emphasize that both parents will continue to meet the kids’ basic needs for safety, security and love. Try to anticipate the questions your children might ask about home and financial situations, and address those questions in your talk. Encourage your kids to ask their own questions, but do not force the issue.