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How should we talk to our kids about the divorce?

For many parents, one of the most daunting steps in the divorce process is breaking the news to the kids. Although it can be a tough conversation for everyone involved, the following tips may help you and your spouse soften the blow if you have decided to divorce.

Break the news together

Especially if tensions are running high between you and your spouse - as they often do when a marriage is ending - you may be inclined to talk with your children separately about the divorce. However, if you are able to have the conversation calmly and respectfully, it may be easier on the kids to hear the news from both of you at once.

Telling your children about the divorce together can help reassure them that both parents will continue to be involved in their lives. It also demonstrates that you are handling the divorce maturely and are still capable of working together as parents for their sake.

Tell siblings at the same time

Similarly, if you have more than one child, it can be difficult to know whether to talk to them separately or together. This may be especially true if the children are far apart in age or maturity levels. Although each family is different, it is often preferable to tell all of the children together.

It can be comforting for children to have their siblings nearby during what may be a difficult conversation. Telling the children all at once also helps avoid additional anxiety and hurt feelings, since those who are told first may feel burdened by having to keep an important secret - and those who find out later may feel that they have been left out of an important family conversation.

Have a plan

If you are like many divorcing parents, part of the challenge of talking to your kids about the divorce may be that you are not sure exactly what to say. The way you frame the conversation can make a big difference in how your children will react to it and feel about it, so it is worth taking some time to prepare. You may want to jot down a few bullet points or even practice with a friend or in front of a mirror.

As you think about how to tell your kids about the divorce, remember that it is important for you and the other parent to appear as a unified front. This means you should touch base beforehand about what you are going to say, even if you have decided not to have the conversation together. It is also very important that you present the news neutrally without arguing or placing blame in front of the children.

Anticipate their questions

Just as you should prepare what you will say, you should also take some time to think about what your children might say. Specifically, what questions might they have and how will you answer them?

Remember that your children don't need to know - and shouldn't have to know - every last detail about what caused your marriage to break down. Therefore, you should prepare for the likely possibility that the children will want to know why you are getting a divorce. Ideally, your answer should be concise and truthful without placing blame on either parent or burdening the children with too much information.

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