Deciding to divorce is likely one of the most emotionally draining decisions you have ever made. Unfortunately, you will need to make many difficult choices in the near future. Some of the most heart-wrenching moments will center on the children. 

You and your spouse will soon find yourself working together on custody arrangements and parenting plans. During those discussions, you both need to keep the children’s leading interests in mind. At some point, you will need to explain the situation to your children. Here are some guidelines to follow during those discussions. 

Be honest 

Tell your children that the marriage is ending. Do not hint at reconciliation; giving kids false hope will only confuse and disappoint them. Emphasize that the divorce is not your children’s fault. Let them know that divorce means parents live in separate homes and the kids spend time at both homes. Also explain that, while adults sometimes split up, the parent-child relationship is forever. Remind them that you will stay involved in their lives. Reassure them that you will love them forever. 

Keep communication lines open 

After you announce the divorce, your children may have questions, but they may not ask them right away. They may grieve in their own way, experiencing feelings such as anger, denial and sadness in random waves. Remain approachable and answer their questions in an age-appropriate way. 

Remember that kids may express anxiety in different ways. Some children hesitate to ask direct questions. They may express their turmoil by failing at school or quitting favorite activities. 

Avoid badmouthing your spouse 

Open communication is one thing, but beware of providing too much information. The children do not need to know about infidelities. Do not disparage your spouse at all during your parenting time, in case children are listening. If the kids ask directly about a parent’s shortcomings, be as kind and compassionate as possible. Explain that no one is perfect and try to leave it at that. Children often see themselves as similar to each parent, so insulting their parent is insulting them.