If possible, both parents should be present when you tell the children about the separation or divorce. This will prevent one parent from blaming the other and give both parents the opportunity to answer the children’s questions.

It’s always best even though you’re separating or divorcing, to present a united front with your ex for the children.  It helps to give them clearer direction and will alleviate some confusion for them.  Having both parents involved will also help the children understand that they are not being abandoned. However, when there is open hostility between the parents, it is best for only one parent to sit down with the children to explain what is going on.Here are some tips to handle what may seem like an overwhelming situation for you:

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  1. Choose a safe and comfortable place where the children can react honestly and openly and react naturally.  Public places are not ideal.
  2. Give the kids time to process this change.  Don’t wait until the last possible moment to tell them.  This will add to their stress and make the situation worse.
  3. Remain calm.  The children will pick up on your emotions and take cues from you.  If you are very upset or anxious while telling them, they’re likely to be anxious and upset.  Although difficult, try to remember that you’re modeling your behavior.
  4. Pick a quiet time in the day, with few distractions and enough opportunity for an unhurried discussion. For younger children, it is best not to speak to them about these sensitive issues when they are tired or cranky.  A weekend morning for example gives you as much time as the children need and allows you to be available should they have further questions or concerns.
  5. Let your children know that this isn’t just a one-time conversation.  Communicate to them that you’re there for them whenever they have questions or just want to talk.
  6. Be clear in your language.  Convey to your children that the decision has already been made.  Wish-washy language will only lead to false hope and further confusion for your children.
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About Heather Feldstein