Lots of parents struggle with kids’ questions about divorce. In many cases, as soon as kids find out a parent has talked to a Toronto divorce lawyer they start asking for answers. How truthful do divorcing parents need to be? Can you leave out the sordid details, or should you divulge them?

Unfortunately, there’s no “right” answer. Every family is different. However, it might help if you ask your Toronto divorce lawyer for a referral to a local counsellor before you break the news to your kids; the right professional can help you determine how to answer tough questions and provide a safe haven for your kids once you’ve already told them about the divorce and the child custody arrangement you and your ex have agreed upon.

How Honest is “Too Honest?”

One of the most important factors in how detailed your honesty must be is your kids’ ages. Generally, telling them the bare minimum is the best idea; it prevents them from becoming resentful toward one or both of you and it allows them to process their emotions on a basic level before coming up with more questions. Giving them simple, clear-cut answers will also help prevent them from becoming confused.

To help give them a clear picture, provide your children with a few details that pertain to their lives. They’ll want to know where they’ll live, how often they’ll see the non-custodial parent and when the separation will take place, and if you can answer these questions, you should. It’s okay to tell them that you’re working with a Toronto divorce lawyer and when you expect the divorce to be finalized, but be careful about overwhelming them with too much information right away.

What Psychologists Recommend Telling Your Kids

No matter how amicable or heated your separation and divorce are, kids need to know:

  • that you both love them and will always be there for them.
  • that the divorce has nothing to do with them and is not their fault.
  • that there is nothing they can do to fix your relationship, and nothing they could have done would have changed your decision before it was made.
  • that extended family will always be there for them, just like both parents will.

Set aside any anger you have toward your ex while you talk to your kids. Don’t bad-mouth your former spouse at any time, even if they’re clearly wrong—you could severely traumatize your kids by doing so.

Expect Kids to React

Kids experience anger, sadness and a wide range of other emotions when parents tell them about an impending split, and it’s all normal. Even kids who have been subjected to substantial parental fighting are often surprised to learn their parents are divorcing, so be prepared to deal with that, as well.

Remember that your kids are experiencing the same changes you are, but that they lack the emotional maturity to handle them like you and your ex can. Talking to an outside third-party might be very beneficial (that’s when a referral from your Toronto divorce lawyer will come in handy) while they sort through their emotions.