Breaking the news to your children that you're divorcing is one of the most difficult conversations you'll ever have. But if you handle it well, it will save you all some heartache in the long run.
Step 1: Be certain Make absolutely certain that you're divorcing before telling the children about it.
Step 2: Pick the right time Tell the children on a day when you and your spouse can break the news together. And be sure to stick around to provide reassurance and answer questions.
TIP: Have the talk a few days before one parent moves out, so the kids have time to absorb the news.
Step 3: Say it’s not their fault Tell the kids that the divorce is not their fault. No doubt you've heard this advice before, but it's something you can't emphasize enough.
TIP: Speak from the heart, and avoid cliches like, "Daddy and I don't love each other anymore, but we still love you."
Step 4: Don’t assign blame Don't assign blame. Even if one of you is moving out to be with someone else, avoid explicit, accusatory explanations – even if staying quiet requires drawing blood from your own tongue.
Step 5: Reassure them Reassure your children that they will continue to be loved and cared for. If possible, explain any custody details you've worked out so you immediately can put to rest their concerns about where they are going to live and whether or not they'll have to change schools.
Step 6: Emphasize continued contact Assuming it's true, emphasize that they will still see plenty of the parent who is not going to be their primary custodian. If you are sharing custody with your spouse, explain to your children how that arrangement will work. Assure them they will still see their grandparents and all their other relatives, too.
TIP: Encourage your children to ask questions, and answer them as honestly as possible.
Step 7: Don’t sugarcoat it Be reassuring, but don't sugarcoat the news too much. Admit that this is going to be a sad time for everyone; just be sure to emphasize that everything is going to work out.
Step 8: Expect their anger Don't be surprised if the children get angry and blame you for the divorce. It's perfectly natural, but it will subside as long as you stay honest with your children and continue to communicate with them.
FACT: Approximately 5.6 million children whose parents are divorced live with their grandparents, according to the most recent US Census.