Responding to children’s questions

Children will want to know what the separation or divorce means to the family and, most importantly, who will take care of them. Listen carefully to your children, treat their questions seriously, and answer their questions as honestly and openly as you can.

Expect questions such as:

  • Do we have to move?
  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I have to change schools?
  • Where will I go for Christmas?
  • How often will I see my parents?

Younger children want to hear how their needs will be met; reassure them that they will still go to their swimming lessons and have someone to help them with homework and cook dinner for them. Although this age group may not ask many questions at first, they will have many worries and fears about their future. Read Why? and Feelings in the kid’s guide to help you prepare for what younger children may ask at this time.

Teenage children have more life experience and therefore will be more aware of how the separation or divorce may impact them. They need the same reassurances as younger children, and may also need encouragement to express their fears. Learn more about the concerns your teenage children may have in the teen guide’s Frequently Asked Questions section.

Allow your children to express their feelings. Recognize that emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, and guilt, are normal. See the Feelings and Emotions section of this guide for advice on how to help your child work through their feelings.

Be patient with your children. It may take them some time to digest the information; although children may appear to understand something you are telling them, they may not be listening because they are “stuck” on something you said early on in the discussion. Don't be surprised if they bring the conversation back to something that was discussed a while ago.

General tips for handling your children's questions:

  • Think before you speak; it's OK to take a few moments to consider the question before you respond.
  • Try to keep your answers simple; too much information will confuse the children, and too many details may only upset them further.
  • If you don't have all of the answers, be honest about it and then explain that you will let them know as soon as you can. Make sure you follow through with this promise.
  • Be careful not to lay blame on or disrespect the other parent.
  • Use age-appropriate language.

Once the children know about your decision to separate or divorce, use the suggestions in Keeping the lines of communication open to encourage continued conversations between you and your children.