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The second divorce conversation: With your children

It's hard enough to have that first divorce conversation: the one with your spouse. You have to tell them that you want to end the marriage. Maybe you know it won't come as a surprise at all; maybe you worry that they'll feel shocked. Either way, it can take some mental and emotional work to get yourself ready.

But, after you and your spouse know 100% that you will end your marriage, there's a second divorce conversation that you need to have. It's the one with your children. How do you make this go smoothly for them?

1. Get everyone together.

First and foremost, get the whole family together for this conversation. Don't do it one at a time. Don't do it as you see them. Make it a meeting for the entire family. This way, you can all support each other. You also know that every child will find out at the same time.

2. Tell them it is not their fault.

Tell them they didn't cause the divorce. Then tell them again. Keep repeating it. While you, as an adult, may think it's obvious, remember that it is not for children. They may blame themselves, even when you tell them not to. Instead, stress how much you love them and how you both want to stay involved in their lives.

3. Show them that you're united in this decision.

You and your spouse may not be united in the decision, technically speaking. Maybe you want the divorce and they don't, or vice versa. Even so, it's not wise to make the children feel like they need to pick sides. No one should become the good guy or the bad guy. Show the kids that you are united and that you're making decisions for the family together.

4. Get ready to answer questions.

This has to be a two-way conversation. They'll have questions that you need to answer -- even if that just means admitting that you don't know. One big issue is timing. Leave time to have discussions. Don't assume the conversation will happen quickly and end, stressing you out when it doesn't. Leave time to really talk.

5. Plan out your intro and main points.

Don't go into this without a plan. If you do, it's too easy to get sidetracked or forget something important you wanted to say. Don't be afraid to jot down some notes so that you know how to begin and what you cannot afford to overlook.

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Hecht Family Law
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