Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Explaining Why Parents Separate or Divorce

Children are confused and upset when their parents break up. Their first question is often “Why?” If they don’t get an answer, they can be confused and upset. When left to wonder why their parents are splitting up, children often blame themselves – did they do something wrong?

Telling your children why you are breaking up is, of course, up to you and the other parent. Many factors must be considered, including how old the children are, their level of maturity and understanding and how sensitive the issues are.

You can explain how hard it was to decide to end the relationship, and that you tried very hard to fix the problems. While some parents explain why their relationship is ending when they tell the children about the separation or divorce, others may not be ready to discuss the reasons right away. Emotions might be too raw or there may be very personal issues that should not be shared with children.

But if you can’t tell your children why you’ve decided to break up, it’s very important to tell them they are not to blame for the break-up. This will help children not feel guilty about their parents splitting up.

You can explain that the problems in the relationship are adult problems between you and the other parent. Emphasize that even though the two of you are ending your adult relationship, you will continue to be loving and supportive parents.

Children will benefit from reading the guides on this website that are written just for them. It’ll also be useful for parents to read them. In both the Kids’ Guide and the Teen Guide, children and teens learn why couples break-up and more. Both guides make these points very clear to children:

  • They are not the reason for their parents splitting up. Kids do not cause separation or divorce.
  • They are not at fault.
  • They are not alone. Thousands of kids get through their parents' separation or divorce every year, and they will too.
  • Parents divorce each other, not their children.
  • Their parents are theirs forever.