Written by Craig Cherney

Are you ready to talk to the kids about divorce?

Trending: Civilized divorces which are child-centered and structured to minimize the emotional baggage married couples accumulate over the years. These divorces use the collaborative law divorce model, and the outcomes are often better for families. “Collaborative.” It even sounds like a win-win way to approach the complexities of the divorce process, and it can go smoothly right up until it’s time to talk to the kids about divorce. That’s often when even the strongest parents hit a wall.

Plan Before You Talk to the Kids About Divorce

Divorce in and of itself doesn’t harm kids, but how adults choose to break the news and handle the process definitely does. -Lori Rubenstein, Divorce Recovery Coach

If you have chosen a collaborative, rather than an adversarial approach to your divorce, you’ve made a good choice. Now, you have another choice: how to tell your children about this lifestyle change. Protecting your children’s emotional health is a priority, so you and your spouse need to plan the methodology that works best for you.

There are several ways to consider how to talk to the kids about divorce. It can be a one-parent setting or both parents can manage the discussion, but what’s most important is that you go into it well-prepared. Psychotherapist Lisa Herrick, Ph.D. recommends this sensitive discussion take place 2-3 weeks prior to separation:

Research over the last five years has revealed that over 75% of divorcing parents talk to their children about this change in the family for less than ten minutes – total. Children need to talk about this, and they need to hear about it. Even if they say they don’t want to do either.

Tips for Your First Divorce Discussion

  • Unified is better, but if one spouse is emotionally fragile, it may be best for the other spouse to manage the conversation alone.
  • Choose a day and time free from activities and commitments elsewhere. Saturday morning gives you two full days to be completely available to your children for continuing discussion and reassurance.
  • Tell their teachers the day before you tell the kids about the divorce. Request they be sensitive, discreet, and more available than usual should the children need additional support.
  • Try to have a plan in place that addresses their questions and concerns:
    • Who is living where?
    • What will happen during holidays?
  • Be prepared for several reactions (crying, tantrums, silence, anger, fear), including denial. An example of denial is, you tell your child about the divorce and your child responds, “What’s for lunch?”
  • Schedule a second conversation.

The Do’s and Don’ts: How to Talk to the Kids About Divorce

It’s important to reassure your children repeatedly during the first conversation and the months that follow. They need to hear that divorce is a grown-up decision and has nothing to do with anything they said or did. Be especially careful to speak respectfully to and about each other. And stress you’re still are a family; this is simply a change. You will be living differently as a family.

  • Assure them you did work to make things better.
  • Offer as many reassurances as possible, but don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Over the days following your first conversation about the divorce, don’t nag the kids into discussing their feelings.
  • Tell them everything they feel – sad, angry, scared – is okay.

Collaborative Divorce in Arizona


Collaborative law is a way to handle your divorce out of court. Best Legal Choices can assist with the sometimes overwhelming decisions about your finances, your family’s emotional wellness, and legalities of the divorce process. To learn if collaborative divorce would work best for your family; contact one of our Arizona collaborative law professionals.

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