Whether you constantly fight with your spouse or you have just been drifting apart for years, this is probably a difficult time for you. You may be ready to divorce but are not sure how to break the news to your kids. You should be certain that you're going to file for divorce before you tell them, but once you know that, you will need to plan to have "the talk" with them.
Here are 3 tips to help you - and them - through the discussion.
1. Plan what you will say without showing bias.
The worst thing you can do is go into the discussion unprepared. Even if you have trouble getting along with your spouse, it is possible to work together on this for your kids' sakes. Plan out what you are going to tell them and how you should say it.
Make sure you have a story that does not show bias for either parent. You no doubt have criticisms about your spouse's behaviors that led to the divorce in the first place, but children still love both of you and want to view both of you in a positive light. Say something like "We haven't been as close as we used to be" or "it's hard for us to be happy together" instead of accusations like "Your father is unfaithful" or "Your mother is not committed to our family anymore."
2. Plan a block of time to tell all of the kids.
You also need to plan when you will break the news. Allow plenty of time to say what you need to say and answer the questions they'll have. Do not pick a time when other obligations could cut the discussion short.
You should also tell all of your children at once. It may be tempting to talk to older kids separately but this can hurt the family. Telling them at different times can cause stress for the ones who are supposed to keep it secret and a feeling of betrayal when the others find out they were the last to know.
3. Anticipate questions.
Kids will have a lot of questions. Everyone processes this news in different ways and they may need some space, but eventually, they will want to understand more. Talk with your spouse about what the kids might ask and how you will answer them. Some common questions from kids will probably relate to living arrangements, new routines and whether both of you will still be at their sports games, recitals, etc.
They may also ask if the divorce is their fault. Even without this question, you need to assure them during your talk that this has nothing to do with them. Most kids with divorcing parents will blame themselves. They need to be told that the divorce was your decision and unrelated to them.