You and your spouse have decided to call it quits. As tough as that decision was, now you’re facing a big job: you have to tell the kids about the split. Together, you and your soon-to-be ex have to hammer out a plan that will spare your kids from emotional trauma but still convey the message that you’ll all be starting a new chapter.

You may have already figured out how to tell your friends and family that you’re getting divorced, but the kids pose different challenges. They’re the ones—aside from you and your spouse—who will be most affected by your decision. Your Richmond Hill divorce lawyer may be able to provide you with valuable resources (like the number of a local counsellor) you can use to help prepare yourself.

What Psychologists Say

Kids form a permanent memory when parents break news of an impending divorce, according to Dr. Kevin Arnold. Since it’s something your children will remember forever, it’s a good idea to create a plan and stick to it.

You should never assume you know how your kids will feel about your divorce. Instead, be flexible and address each of their feelings. Some children are sad, while others are relieved; still others experience a wide range of emotions both initially and in the long-term, according to Dr. Arnold.

You’re Both Grown-Ups… So Act Like It

Your kids need you to be emotionally mature when you tell them about your divorce. That includes accepting responsibility for what’s happening, which is different than placing blame.

If you don’t accept responsibility for the divorce, and you and your partner both point the finger at each other, where does that leave the kids? They’ll be free to come to their own conclusions, which may include blaming themselves.

What You Can Do

Tell your kids about the split sooner, rather than later. Waiting until just before one of you moves out will prevent them from having enough time to process their emotions and prepare to accept their new lives.

Bring your entire family together—even adult children who have already moved out. You and your spouse will be presenting a united front that helps them understand they don’t have to choose one of you over the other.

Be honest with your kids about the reasons behind the divorce, but avoid oversharing. They don’t need to know the sordid details. However, telling them the truth in an age-appropriate manner will help them deal with the divorce.

Make sure your kids understand the divorce has nothing to do with them. Reassure them that you both love them very much, and that will never change.

Do your best not to get emotional in front of your kids. When a parent cries or becomes visibly unsettled, kids get worried and afraid. As you tell your kids about the divorce, remain calm and self-assured. The attitude you project now will be part of the permanent memory they form, and it will send them the message that it’s ok to talk to you about their own feelings.

If you or your kids are having a hard time dealing with your divorce, talk to your Richmond Hill divorce lawyer. He or she might be able to refer you to a local counsellor or therapist who can help you come together as a family and fight through this tough time.