How to talk about divorce with your child


It’s four words no parent wants to say to their child: “We’re getting a divorce.”


If your child is younger, bringing up divorce can be especially difficult. How do you explain such a complex concept in a way they’ll understand? How do you ensure they know what’s happening isn’t their fault? 


At, we’re dedicated to helping families like you navigate every moment of parenthood — including the difficult ones. That’s why we’ve created courses on a number of hard-to-handle topics like grief, loss, divorce and anxiety.


We’ve used some of that information to create this quick guide on how to talk about divorce with your little one.


Plan out what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it.


Before you have the divorce talk with your kid, sit down with your partner (if possible) and agree on what you’re going to tell your child. This will help ensure your emotions don’t get the best of you during the conversation and it will help you appear as a united front when the time comes to break the news. We also recommend that you plan to tell your child together, as it can help children understand the parting is mutual and that they can still trust you both.  


Finally, when you’re planning out your conversation, be intentional about when and where the talk will take place. The news will likely leave your little one feeling confused and alone, so plan it for a time when you can be together for a good bit afterward (rather than right before they go to bed or leave for school). 


Keep the conversation simple.


For young children, divorce can seem like a very abstract concept. So, when you’re talking to your kid about separation, focus on simple, concrete notions like who is moving to a new place, how often they’ll get to see each parent and the fact that both parents still love and care about them. Continually remind your child that the decision is not their fault — and that both parents will be happier in the end. Finally, avoid putting direct blame on either parent and try not to argue with each other during the conversation. 


Encourage them to share their feelings and questions.


When you break the news to your kid, chances are they’ll likely have several follow-up questions. That’s why it’s important for you to encourage them to share how they’re feeling and if they have any questions. Try to answer each question as intentionally as possible, keeping in mind the talking points you and your partner agreed upon previously. If your child doesn’t have any questions at the moment, let them know that’s okay, too, and that sometimes it takes people time to process big changes like this. Finally, let your little one know that you’re both there for them no matter what and can answer any questions they may have down the road.


Keep the conversation going after the initial chat.


As we mentioned previously, there’s a good chance your little one won’t be able to process everything right away. Plan to have proactive, follow-up conversations with your kid to see how they’re feeling and if there’s anything you can do to make the change easier for them. One way to do this is by incorporating divorce-related titles into your storytimes (here are some of our favorites). Another way to ensure they’re processing their emotions in a healthy manner is to look into a family therapist to help you and your kids through the transition.


Want to learn more about how you can support your little one during your divorce? We have two courses that can help.


In The Effect of Divorce on a Child, you’ll learn the common symptoms of divorce-related stress and how to spot it depending on your child’s age. In its sister course, Helping Children Cope with Divorce, you’ll learn how to nurture your child through those stressors and support them physically, emotionally and socially.


Both courses are backed by research-based techniques and are available for free with a seven-day trial. To learn more, click here.