How and When Should the Divorcing Parents Tell their Kids about Separation

How to tell your child you’re separating? Besides tips on telling kids about separation, know how to help kids deal with their parents getting a divorce.
Two kids and dog with caption how to tell your child you're separating

If you’re separating with kids involved, you need to handle it with care. It may come as a shock to your kids and affect their life. Therefore, as responsible divorcing parents, telling your kids about your separation has to be a process. Learn about how to tell your child you’re separating or getting divorced and help them deal with it using therapies. ~ Ed.


Any way you look at legal separation or divorce, someone or even everyone concerned will be hurt. While divorce is an option, it is best if parents explore all avenues to make the marriage work.

Sometimes visiting a therapist or counselor, or even seeking online counseling for parents can be a great help. Often, talking about the situation with an objective and knowledgeable listener matters, as the counselor can view the situation without prejudice.

If the marital situation is already unbearable and you and your partner did try everything possible to mend the relationship to no avail, it is better for you to go your separate ways.

Steven Kalas, a behavioral therapist, segregated the reasons for divorce into three categories:

  1. As a moral demand because the spouse is a criminal, degrading or abusive and the divorce is necessary to save oneself;
  2. Due to betrayal because the partner had an affairs or affairs, mentally unbalanced and does not like to seek treatment or literally robbed you blind; and
  3. Due to marital malaise as the spouses fell out of love, grew apart, got lazy, gained weight or failed to meet each other’s expectations.

Divorce at times can be a difficult process especially when it involves children. The dilemma is when and how to tell the children that their parents are contemplating separation.

While it is difficult for the adults, as the main players in the issue, they are prepared for the emotional, financial and physical hardships that they can expect to encounter. The emotional effects of the divorce on children are often overlooked, however.

Tips on How to Tell Your Child You’re Separating

Exactly when is the right time to tell the children about the impending divorce? Moreover, what and how are you going to tell them?

Well, depending on your marital and family situations, here are some ideas.

● Before you let your children know that you are separating, you have to make a plan on how to tell them, and so both of you are on the same page.

● Tell your children about your plan to divorce before the separation actually happens. Your children will get used to the idea while you are still in the same house and they can ask you questions.

It is better if you and your spouse talk beforehand about your reasons for the divorce and agree on what to tell them. So, you or your spouse will have the same set of reasons, should your children want to talk to you separately.

Caveat: See to it that you tell your children once you are sure of the time your physical separation will happen. If it will take some time for one of you to leave the house, delay the decision to tell them. Your children might think that the separation will not happen if it will take time for you to separate.

● To make talking to children about separation more effective, instead of just talking to the oldest child initially, as most parents usually do, it is best to gather all your children who are old enough to understand and tell them the truth.

Talk to your kids as a couple at a time when there is nothing pressing to do such as on a weekend. This shows that you care about them. As a result, you can avoid any misunderstanding because each of your children will be hearing the same reasons.

Also, your children will be more supportive of each other if all of them know the truth at the same time, instead of trying to shelter the younger ones.

● When talking to your children, ensure that you tell them the truth. Let them know what to expect when the divorce is final and give them assurance of you and your spouse’s involvement in their lives.

Getting your children to understand the situation will take more than just one family meeting. It can take several weeks or months.

Tell them that it is both your decision and that it is a decision that the adults came up with and not because of the children.

You’ve to assure them that no one is to blame; they can continue to love both parents, and while the family dynamics will be different, the parents will continue to be parents, even after separation.

While this is all about when and how to tell your child you’re separating, there’s a more serious issue of how your kids will cope with it. If you think it is going to be stressful for them, you can use some therapies to help you kids cope with the separation.

Animal-Assisted Therapy to Help Kids Deal with Parent’s Separation

Family crises, especially if the family suffers from a high-conflict divorce, need professional counseling to facilitate their social and emotional healing process. Many people experiencing such a heavy burden are resistant to change.

Besides talking to and telling children about separation, some family counselors advocate the use of animal-assisted therapy (AAT), a form of therapy that uses animals for motivation, education and relaxation in cases of divorce and separation. Most adults and children respond well to friendly animals.

Therapists use marine mammals like dolphins, farm animals and domesticated pets for the purpose of calming edgy nerves, children acting up and adults who are less responsive when talking to other persons.

At times, when someone is going through a painful or uncomfortable time, like separation, therapy animals are better at easing his/her anxiety and calming the nerves.

Animals can help them to talk about their feelings as they will just be there as listeners. Else, they can be a silent companion while a less-verbal person explores what’s bothering them wordlessly.

Therapists found that people project their problems or themselves to animals and the animals react to a person’s body language better than a human can. By observing the interaction between persons and pets, the therapist could catch insights they would probably miss through verbal meetings.

Animal-assisted therapy is effective in lowering anxiety and depression and helps people in understanding and accepting big transitions in their life, such as divorce and separation.

The therapy helps in increasing their self-esteem and understanding their trauma. It helps people understand relationship issues, loss, grief, and anxiety. It also improves communication.

Settings for animal-assisted interventions vary. Some therapists use a cat or dog in the office or bring the patients to a farm. The calm and non-threatening environment helps to ease the person’s deepest worries.

Using such therapies can help parents make their kids go through the divorce or separation process smoothly. Of course, this is not an alternative to talking to your kids and telling them about your separation.

Wrapping Up

When you’ve made the decision to announce the separation, be sure that you are also mentally prepared. Plan ahead and present a united front when you meet with your kids.

Be prepared to answer all their questions honestly and in simple terms. Also, be ready to ease their bewilderment, their pain, emotional struggles and apprehension.

It is also better to talk to the children’s teachers, so they too can prepare themselves for some irrational behavioral display for a time. If you cannot manage alone, seek the help of professional counselors.

Over to you –

Are you divorced or separating? If it was the case of separating with kids involved, how did you deal with it? Share in the comments.

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  1. Thank you for telling me that I should always be prepared to answer my children’s questions regarding our divorce and simplify everything in a way they can understand. My husband and I have decided to go on our separate paths without any harsh feelings, and we both think that it will be better to end our marriage this early to prevent any misunderstandings in the future. I hope I can find a good divorce lawyer who can help us get through this process easily.

    1. Dear Zoe,

      Thank you for the feedback and sharing. The universe always directs us to the simple, pleasant, and effortless path. This is its natural flowing state. When we are in a relationship that is exhausting and complicated, the creation tells us to re-choose when you are not in the right and accurate path for you.

      What characterizes a good couple in a relationship is the joy of natural and simple life and especially gratitude for it. I know how hard it is to tell your kids about breaking up. I wish you much success in the process and all the best.

  2. These tips sure come in handy for divorcing or separating families.

    The children need to feel safe and assured that the parents will both be there for them. Therapy is a great way to help kids talk it through without feeling pressure of mom and dad.

    When I separated from my husband my daughter was only three years old. It was difficult for her to understand at that age, but with therapy she came a long way. Also following a routine is important. i.e. Daddy comes on Saturday horrayyy! (never ever bad mouth the other parent no matter what)

    Basically parents do need to be on the same page for the children’s sake.


  3. Hi Lib,
    Nice post.

    Divorce is quite an issue when it comes to handling it with children and I think you have mentioned some solid steps. Kids are the most affected by the divorce process and because they have always lived connected with the two of the parents it is hard for them to imagine living with one without the other.

    These tips, especially telling the children about divorce while you are still in the same house might give them some time gulp in the truth.

    Have a great rest of the week.

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