Kate Scharff has written an excellent article “Telling Your Kids About the Split: The Six Most Common (Well-Intended) Mistakes“. In it she makes some great points.
I often have clients who are trying to figure out the best way to tell their children they are getting divorced. I usually recommend that they work with a child specialist (like Kristin Little) to plan that very difficult conversation. Getting advice from someone with a background in counseling and children can help one avoid some of the kinds of mistakes Ms. Scharff talks about.
Much of the advice seems to come down to telling us not to sugar coat it. What our kids need from us most is honest information about what is going on, and how it is, and is not, going to affect their lives. It’s OK to let our feelings show, even cry. It’s OK to to let them know you don’t love each other any more (but I wouldn’t go into the reasons why – running down the other parent is never a good thing).
One particularly good piece of advice was that you don’t have to do it exactly right either. What matters is simply that the kids feel safe and loved. It is also important to let them know that it is not about them, that the divorce is not their fault. Children have a remarkable ability to take responsibility for what is going on around them. There is often a tendency to say “if only I had…” or “if only I hadn’t…” We know it is not about them, but it is good to make sure they know it too.