Knowing how to tell your kids about divorce can help prepare them for what’s ahead. While divorce is a time full of changes, the right conversations can help them navigate the future.
9 Things to Tell Your Kids About Divorce
“You will be cared for, always.”
Young children are highly dependent on their parents. Once they learn that you’re getting divorced, they may immediately start to worry about who will take care of them. It’s important to assure young children that their parents will both continue to care for them and that their needs will be met.
“It’s an adult decision.”
It’s easy for children to blame themselves. They look at a situation from their perspective and try to fill in the blanks of what happened and what they could have done differently. Remind your child that the decision to divorce is a decision that the parents made about their relationship. Both of their parents still love them, and the decision doesn’t have to do with them.
“Some things will change.”
Prepare your child for changes to come. A child needs to know how the divorce will affect them.
If a parent is going to move out of the home, let your child know. If you have already determined a parenting schedule, your child will appreciate knowing the plan.
“Some things won’t change.”
Children need routines. Keeping some familiarity and sticking with a schedule can help your child adjust. Regular mealtimes and bedtimes can give a child a sense of stability. If your children will continue to attend the same school or activities, reassure them. If a parent plans to stay in the marital home, let them know.
“You’ll be able to reach us.”
A child may worry about how to contact you. Contact with each parent through parenting time, video calls, phone, texts, emails and other methods may need to be determined through the court process. However, assure your child they will be able to communicate with their parents.
Over time, children will develop a routine. In the first days and weeks, a child may need extra assurances that a parent is only a call or text away.
“You can have input, but you don’t choose which parent to live with.”
In North Carolina, and most other states, the court considers the preference of the child when it comes to child custody. However, the child doesn’t have the final say until the custody order ends. The court will decide child custody and parenting time based on the best interests of the child (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13-2(a)).
If your child has strong opinions about custody, tell them that they can give input. If they’re old enough to have a reasoned, intelligent opinion, the judge will likely hear what they have to say.
The judge will weigh the child’s age and the motivation for their opinion. Don’t pressure a child into taking a side, because if the court thinks a child is being pressured, it may have the opposite of the intended effect.
“Here’s what happened.”
It’s okay to give an older child information that’s appropriate for the circumstances. However, avoid denigrating the other parent to the child. It can work against you in a child custody decision, and ultimately, it can harm your relationship with your child.
“We don’t agree on that.”
Very few couples who divorce agree on everything, especially right away. If you have disagreements about child custody, it’s okay to tell the children that you don’t agree. Tell them that you’re going to work out what’s best for them even if you aren’t in agreement on what that is right now. You can tell them that other adults, like a lawyer, mediators, and the courts, might be involved in the process, too.
“You can ask questions.”
Children of any age are likely to have questions when you tell them about divorce. Tell them they’re allowed to ask questions. Explain that you’ll do your best to answer the questions that you can.
Should we tell the kids about divorce together?
It’s best to tell the kids about divorce together if both parents can be calm and reassuring.
Sometimes, it just isn’t going to work for both parents to tell children about an upcoming divorce together. Children should have an opportunity to talk to both parents about the divorce.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer in Charlotte
At Remington & Dixon, we advocate for your clients in divorce, child custody and parenting time matters. We know that it can be difficult to know how to tell your kids about divorce. If you are considering divorce or beginning the process, we invite you for an affordable consultation. Call 704-247-7110 or message us to discuss your case.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.