Consider When and What to Tell Your Children About Divorce

When should I tell my kids?

Tell them once you know for sure that you will divorce, when your spouse also knows, and when you can tell the children calmly. Tell your children before they hear it from outsiders. Your focus here should be on both your natural caring for your children, and your ability to show the Oregon divorce court that you have their best interests in mind. “Best interests” includes helping your children have a positive relationship with your spouse, regardless of the quality of your relationship with your spouse.

WHAT SHOULD I SAY TO MY CHILDREN ABOUT DIVORCE?

Experts (and your mandatory Oregon pre-divorce parenting class) will likely tell you the following about informing your children of your divorce:

  • Plan what you will say in advance. Write it down, if you need to.
  • If possible, you and your spouse should tell your children together. This shows your children that you are united in caring for them and that they do not have to take sides, one parent against the other.
  • Tell your children that the divorce is only between the adults and that nobody is divorcing the children.
  • Be cautious about sharing any reasons for the divorce. It is best to simply defer the question and say that it is an adult issue, or to say that “mommy and daddy couldn’t live together anymore.” This gives your children “permission” to continue loving both of you, instead of taking sides against a presumed initiator of the divorce.
  • Don’t badmouth your spouse.
  • Admit that divorce makes you a little sad, but try to keep your emotions in check in front of your children as much as possible. It is important that they not be put into a role of parenting you, as that is age-inappropriate and not in their best interests.
  • Alert the children that some things in their lives will change after the divorce, such as where both parents live, their home part of the time and perhaps their school. Be specific, if you know specifics. Remind them of things that divorce will not change, such as parental love, siblings, friends and pets. Children benefit by hearing concrete details and being reassured of family constancy.
  • Anticipate much repetition. Children, especially younger kids, will ask many follow-up questions and need repeating. Be receptive and reassuring upon further questioning about the divorce.
  • Be tolerant of your children’s possible emotional outbursts, behavior changes and confused loyalties as they process their feelings.
  • Consider telling your children’s teachers or daycare providers, even before divorce is filed. This can be done simply: “My spouse and I will be getting a divorce. Please let me know if my child has behavior or emotional issues that may be related to this.” Be careful in these communications to focus on your children’s welfare, rather than your desire to malign your spouse or gain sympathy.

Manage Your Stress

Self-care is important for wise management of your Oregon divorce case. No matter how overwhelmed and sad you may feel, take care of your greatest resource — yourself — so that you can best get through the divorce process.

If you are overly stressed, you may be disorganized or forgetful of facts that your Oregon divorce attorney needs to understand. You may be unable to follow your lawyer’s advice about not antagonizing your spouse, or not bad-mouthing him/her in front of your children. You may be unable to present yourself calmly before the custody evaluator or Oregon family court judge. Taking care of your stress is smart.

If you are having trouble handling the stress of your divorce, speak with your doctor about your stress and getting the right amount of sleep, the proper diet, exercise and medication, if necessary. You may also wish to consider a divorce recovery class or speaking to a divorce counselor. Be cautious about overusing alcohol or beginning new romantic relationships at this time. If you have children, focus on being a good parent. Speak to your Oregon divorce attorney whenever you have concerns.