What Children Need to Hear

Telling the children may be the most painful part of the entire separation process. Here are some statements you may find useful to make together. If you are speaking to your children without the other parent, you can adapt them. If you have concerns about safety, some of these statements may not work.

"You did not cause the separation/divorce."

"We are not going to ask you to take sides."

"You will continue to be loved, taken care of and provided for."

I remember when my parents first told us the news. They sat down with me and my sister and said: "Dad and Mom won't be living together anymore, but we will never stop loving you. Never." They said: "You may wish we'd get back together again, but that is not going to happen." And, when we cried, they told us they were sorry their decision was causing us hurt.

For any parents who have already broken the news in a different way, try not to beat yourself up about it. You can't change the things you've already said; all you can do now is move forward and try again with these new ideas, such as:

"When we married/began living together, we loved each other and believed things would work out."

"The divorce/separation was not an easy decision. After a lot of effort to save the relationship, we decided we could no longer live together."

"While our feelings for each other as husband and wife have changed, the special relationship between parent and child goes on forever."

"Relationships with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and other relatives will continue. Sometimes though, these relationships change."

Here's what they don't need to hear.

They don't need to hear that the separation is the other parent's fault. Don't give children the message that one parent is the "good guy" and one the "bad guy," even if you feel that way.

They don't need to hear the details of what went wrong. Children don't need information about personality problems, money problems, or affairs. This information burdens children.

They DEFINITELY don't need to hear negative statements about the other parent. Saying negative things about the other parent puts children in emotional conflict.

It's so, so important not to put down the other parent in front of your kids - no matter how much anger or frustration you may feel. If you have the urge to vent, go find another adult who will listen, and make sure there is no chance your kids can hear what you are saying.


Guiding Your Child Through the Separation Process