What you should say

  • In general terms, describe why you and your partner have decided to part.
  • Take care not to accuse the other parent of any wrongdoing, as this will only add to the children’s confusion.
  • It is important to emphasize to the children that they are not to blame. They will need to hear this from you many times and in many different ways, especially during the early stages of the separation or divorce. Research has shown that most children’s first reactions are feelings of guilt and that they did something to cause the break-up.
  • They will also need to hear that adults separate or divorce because of problems in their relationship, but they don’t split up with their children; reassure the children that you will always be their parent and that you will never stop loving them.
  • Be clear that your decision is final; children should not be given false hope for a reconciliation if none exists.
  • Emphasize that they will not be losing one of their parents.
  • Use their response as a guide – do not force further conversation, but gently remind the children that you are always willing to talk more about it when they are ready.
  • Encourage the children to ask questions and talk about their concerns.

Phrases you might to use when explaining the situation to your children

We have tried very hard, but we just can’t fix our problems. We both love you very much and we will still be your parents, but we won’t be living together anymore.”

“Grown-ups have problems that they have to deal with, even though it causes their children pain. We are sorry that we are making you unhappy, but this change in our family will not change our love for you.”

“We know it is upsetting for you, and we also wish that this was not happening. You are not to blame, and it is important to remember that we will always love and care for you.”

“We will always be your parents, and you will always be our child.”

“You did nothing wrong, and there is nothing you could do to stop it from happening.”

“I understand how you must be feeling, but remember that the problem is between your parents. There is nothing you could have done differently to prevent this from happening.”

“It may be hard for you to imagine this change happening to your family, but together we will work it out. We will always look after you all, and will do everything we can to help the family get used to the change.”

“Do not be afraid to tell us how you feel or what you are thinking.”