Telling children about divorce: Before, during and after the discussion

There are certain steps parents should take when they tell their children about their plan to end their marriage.

When parents in Maryland decide to end their marriage, one of their biggest concerns is how their children will cope with the news. Although children may struggle with this new transition, there are still things parents can do to make breaking the news and helping their children through the divorce process easier.

Preparing for the conversation

Before telling their children about their intent to divorce, parents should sit down with each other and try to agree upon a script for the conversation. Parents should also pick a time and a place to hold the discussion. Parents should avoid times that conflict with a significant event, like one of their children's birthdays, and select a place that is free of distractions.

How to handle the conversation

Once parents begin the conversation about their impending divorce, they should focus on the positives of the situation and emphasize that the divorce is not the children's fault. Parents might tell the children that even though they will no longer be married, they will still have two parents who love them very much. Additionally, parents should avoid blaming their spouse for the divorce and, instead, focus on assuring the children that they will try to keep their children's day-to-day lives as close to the way it was when both parents were there.

Helping children cope

While the divorce process moves forward and a new child custody arrangement is established, there are steps parents can take to help their children cope with their situation:

  • Parents should avoid confiding in their children about their worries. For instance, parents should not discuss any financial concerns with their children.
  • While speaking of their former spouse, parents should avoid making negative comments to or in front of their children.
  • When spending time with their children, parents should refrain from quizzing them about what happens when they are at their other parent's home.
  • If at all possible, parents should avoid introducing major changes into their children's lives soon after a separation.
  • Parents should encourage their children to maintain the relationship they have with the other parent.
  • Parents should continue to parent as they always have and not do things for their children because they feel guilty about the divorce.
  • Parents should not use children as messengers. For example, requests to change the access schedule should be communicated from parent to parent and not through a child.

Although parents may be prepared to help their children through the divorce process in Maryland, they may still have concerns about how much time they will have with their children after a separation. Parents with these or similar concerns should reach out to an attorney in their area who can guide them through this process.