When you and your spouse decide to part ways, there are a whirlwind of emotions to contend with. You may be filled with grief, anger and bewilderment. It can be easy to become consumed with how this dramatic life change affects you. When it comes time to break the news to your kids, many parents don’t give this conversation the forethought it deserves.

However, the way your kids learn about your separation will have a dramatic impact on them—probably for the rest of their lives. There is a right and wrong way to have this conversation. In today’s post, we examine some key strategies to make this conversation better for your kids:

  • Wait until you’re calm. If your spouse just walked out on your last night, you’re probably too upset to have a fruitful conversation with your kids about it. Wait until your initial turmoil has subsided enough to keep your emotions in check. You want to be emotionally available for your kids to the greatest extent possible—without making it about your own anguish.
  • Plan it out. If you and your spouse are still on speaking terms, decide on a time to talk to your kids together. Figure out ahead of time exactly what you want to say. It’s also important not to deluge them with information. If your kids aren’t expecting a divorce, hitting them with too much at once can lead to emotional shock. Keep your message clear, simple and focused on your continued love for your kids.
  • Anticipate the aftermath. After learning of their parents’ divorce, it’s normal for children to feel isolated—like their world is crumbling around them. It’s important to stay with them and demonstrate your continued love and care for them. Speak in a slow, soothing manner, put your arm around them and make eye contact. Don’t expect life to return to normal immediately. If your child is too upset to go to school the next day, be understanding and supportive.

The moment a child learns of their parents’ divorce is pivotal. Follow these tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.