Talking to your Children about Divorce


Posts/Tweets May 14, 2014

Welcome to Right-On with HFG Happy Families Support Network Inc. (HFG)

HFG is a not-for-profit support group that provides ongoing support to women and children who have experienced abuse

HFG is a free support group for women and children who have experienced abuse, run by women who have experienced abuse

The topic for today is – Talking to your Children about Divorce

So you’ve spent many years with your abusive spouse, and in many cases your children have witnessed the abuse

Now you’ve left the abuser and are preparing for a divorce…what do you tell your children?

Keep in mind that divorce in general is very difficult for everyone, and especially difficult for children

What do you say to your children? And how do you say it?

Here is the scenario…you’ve left the abuser, taken the children and are at a shelter, or staying with a friend

This is a big change for the children, so you need to find the right words and say them in the right way

Choose a time to have this discussion when you are not rushing to appointments or the children are not going to school

This way you will be able to take your time to help them through this very emotionally charged discussion

Explain it to them in a way that they will understand without giving them all the details

Start by letting them know you love them and always will love them

Then explain as simply as possibly that mommy and daddy cannot live together anymore, and that you are getting a divorce

Reassure them that this is not their fault; that this is between mommy and daddy

Be prepared for questions, sadness and anger, but stay calm

Tell them as much as you know of how their life will change as a result of the divorce

Where they will live, who they will live with, and how often they will see the other parent

If you have not yet agreed on custody and access, explain that you are working out a schedule and you will let them know as soon as you’re done

Try and answer their questions as honestly as possible without going into too many details

Remember that the grown-ups are the ones getting a divorce not the children

Children may feel confused. They love the abusive parent, but they hate the things they do

Encourage them to express their feelings…it’s OK to cry and be angry, but they must always talk to you about our feelings

Remember that you are the adult and should be comforting your children, not the children comforting you

Once again remind your children that they are not the reason for the divorce

Remind them that there is nothing they could have done to change the abuser

Repeat regularly that you love them and that nothing that happens between mommy and daddy will ever change that

Fear is a big part of their feelings at this time. Fear that you will divorce them as well. Fear for their safety and yours

So constantly remind them that you love them and that the divorce will never change that

You will need to revisit this discussion with your children on a regular basis as they won’t understand it all in one conversation

Be very attentive to your children. Communication is different for children and adults

Children are not able to express themselves through words alone

Often, younger children communicate their innermost thoughts through playing

By being attentive, you will learn to recognize and understand the meaning of your children’s activities, facial expressions and body language

Don’t make promises that you can’t keep

Keep in mind that your children are usually aware of the tension, and sometimes witnessed the abuse, so be honest at all times

Become a good listener. This will help you communicate effectively with your children

Give children and teenagers a say in their lives. Good parenting involves listening to your children and giving them appropriate choices so they don’t always feel powerless

You can use a story about imaginary children in the same circumstances to help your children work out how they are feeling

Make sure these stories include your children’s specific worries and fears

Ask questions after your story…how do you think that child feels?

This will give your children to a chance to talk about their own feelings without thinking that you may get sad or angry

Maintain as much routine and continuity as possible

Your children will need extra attention and care to help them through this difficult time, even if they appear to be coping well

They need to know that it is okay for them to feel angry and sad about losses that have resulted from the violence and divorce

Even though this is a difficult time for your children, don’t be afraid to set limits in a firm but loving manner

Also, take some time to have fun. Go to the park and play like a child with your children or have a picnic

Try and make life as normal as possible

Remember that children may need a neutral third party to talk about what is happening

Take them to a Therapist. The Therapist will provide a safe place for your children to talk about how they feel

The children will get help working through their feelings and learn coping skills

Remember this is hard for you as an adult making the decision to divorce, so it is much harder for your children who might not understand everything


Thank you for joining Right-On with HFG. We look forward to seeing you next Wednesday May 21 for our weekly Right-On conversation

The topic for next week is – Parenting After Divorce

Please email your questions and comments to

If you would like more information on the HFG support group please email

Have a great day! HFG Hugs!!