Child therapist Juli Hindsley provides suggestions for talking to your kids about divorce

A divorce is a monumental life change, and the idea of talking to your children about you and your spouse splitting up may be one of the hardest parts of the process. St. Petersburg child therapist Juli Hindsley recommends a few steps to make the process as easy as possible.

“Having a plan with your significant other is extremely important,” Hindsley says. “Make sure you are on the same page about when and where the conversation will happen, down to the day, time and place. You should agree on some major decisions before talking to your children, like when the separation will happen, how they’ll share their time, and where everyone will live.” If you are able to, presenting this information visually, with calendars or charts and pictures, even of a new living space where applicable, can really set a child’s mind at ease.

The St. Petersburg child therapist also suggests not pushing for a reaction, as everyone–especially children–need time to process important information. She recommends having a fun family activity, like a trip to the zoo or going for ice cream, planned for after the talk. “Actions speak loudest, much louder than words, when a child knows their world is going to change. By showing them, not just telling them, that you will always love and respect each other for the sake of the children, you are showing them they can trust you during this unique process”.

Once the conversation is over, be sure to check in daily or every other day to see if anyone has questions, but keep it simple by acknowledging how big the information is and reminding them that you are there for your child if they have any questions.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, or your child, if they act like they don’t care,” she adds. “Children are more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for.” They also do not have the perspective to imagine the size of the changes until they have happened. “Do not panic if things are running smoothly for a few months, and then your child begins to show signs of distress. This is normal, and even expected, behavior”. Reach out to trusted friends and family or for professional guidance to help your child and yourself navigate big feelings when they arise.

Once the conversation is over, make sure the separation happens soon after. Hindsley recommends having as many pieces of the separation in place as possible before the children are brought into the loop and to follow through according to what has been discussed.

For additional resources and St. Petersburg children’s counseling services, visit Child & Family Therapy Center’s contact page.

Talking to children about divorce