Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

How to compassionately tell your kids about the divorce

Nothing trumps your love for your kids. Nothing.

Even though you have decided to get divorced, that's one thing you and your spouse agree on. You want to put the kids first. Throughout the entire process, you want to make sure that you support them and that things go smoothly for them. You do not want this to be a catastrophic event that upends their lives.

That starts at the very beginning. You need to tell them what's coming. How do you break the news in a way that is compassionate and helpful?

No fault

Start by telling them it's not their fault. Nothing they did caused the divorce. They did not push the two of you apart as a couple. You love them tremendously and you wish this did not have to happen, but it does. You still love them more than anything in the world. You should stress this constantly, even if they seem to get it. Leave them with no doubts whatsoever.

You also don't want to put the fault on yourself or your spouse. Don't start blaming each other. Do not make your kids feel like there are two different sides to take. Work together. Tell them this as their parents, not two individuals. When they know that you both agree and that you're all in this together, as a family, it makes it easier for them. It also preserves those strong relationships that you both have with them for the future.

Perfect timing

Your sense of timing is also important. When you bring this up matters. Try to avoid any big events in your children's lives, such as:

  • The senior prom
  • Graduation
  • College trips
  • Getting a driver's license
  • Taking exams
  • Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Getting engaged (for older children)
  • Transferring to a new school
  • Losing a close friend

Essentially, you need to think about the emotional impact of what you are telling them. Try to do it at a time when everything else in their lives is on a pretty even keel.

Timing is also important in the sense that you do not want to have this talk too early or too late. If you do it too soon and then decide not to get divorced, it just opens up a lot of potential stress that they don't need. If you wait too long and they hear about it from someone else, they feel betrayed. Wait until you know for sure and then tell them -- telling all of the kids at the same time -- before anyone else.

The process

Your love for your kids comes from the right place. It's important to take this outlook and apply it to the entire divorce process. You must know what steps to take and how to help them through.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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Needham, MA 02494

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