Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What You Should Say

  • In general terms, describe why you and your former spouse 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’s 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’ll always be their parent and that you’ll never stop loving them.
  • Be clear that your decision is final. Don’t do anything to give your children false hope that you’ll get back together again.
  • Emphasize that they won’t be losing either of their parents.
  • Use their response as a guide. Don’t force further conversation, but gently remind the children that you’re always willing to talk more about it when they’re ready.
  • Encourage the children to ask questions and talk about their concerns.


Here are phrases you might use when explaining the situation to your children:

  • “We’ve tried very hard, but we just can’t fix our problems. We both love you very much and we’ll 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’re sorry that we’re making you unhappy, but this change in our family won’t change our love for you.”
  • “We know it’s upsetting for you, and we wish it wasn’t happening. You’re not to blame, and it’s important to remember that we’ll always love and care for you.”
  • “We’ll always be your parents, and you’ll always be our child.”
  • “You did nothing wrong, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening.”
  • “I understand how you must be feeling, but remember that the problem is between your parents. There’s 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’ll work it out. We’ll always look after you, and will do everything we can to help the family get used to the change.”
  • “Don’t ever be afraid to tell us how you feel or what you’re thinking.”