Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Answering Children’s Questions

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

Expect questions such as these:

  • Do we have to move?
  • Who will I live with?
  • Will I have to change schools?
  • Where will I go for the Holidays?
  • How often will I see you?

Younger children want to hear how their needs will be met. Reassure them that they’ll still go to their swimming lessons and have someone to help them with homework and cook dinner for them. Although younger children may not ask many questions at first, they’ll have many worries and fears about their future. Read Why? and Feelings in the Kid’s Guide to help you prepare for the kinds of questions younger children might ask.

Teenage children have more life experience and so will be more aware of how the break-up will affect 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 might 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 might take them time to digest the information. Although children might appear to understand something you’re 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 answer.
  • Try to keep your answers simple. Too much information will confuse the children, and too many details might only upset them further.
  • If you don't have all the answers, be honest and then explain that you’ll let them know as soon as you can. Make sure you follow through with this promise.
  • Be careful not to disrespect or blame 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.