Getting Divorced - - - What to Tell the Kids?!?!?

Updated on January 01, 2011
A.H. asks from Stow, OH
21 answers

My husband just filed for a divorce. Our son is three and our daughter is two. I dont know how much to tell them or when to tell them. Our son is very smart and he already knows something is up! He tells me all the time 'give daddy a kiss too' (if I kiss him or his sister) or he'll say 'hold daddy's hand' - - - just simple things that he notices are no longer taking place! My husband plans to move out at the end of January - we have had issues on and off for years. We have tried counseling on two different occassions. I have literally begged him to try counseling again to try and make this work. He said NO. I want a divorce. He is leaving regardless, trying to get him to read marital books or go to church are out of the question. I am crushed and do NOT want the divorce. I am absolutely terrified of hurting my children. My husband and I have agreed that we have to do what is in the best interest of the kids. They will both be living with me and have visitation with him. He will have a bedroom for them and will take alot of familiar things (furniture, toys, etc) from here to furnish his new home with... hoping it will make this transformation a little easier on them?!? Any advice would be much appreciated. I am very much in love with my husband - this was not my decision by any means. Our divorce is going to be very simple and very quick. It should be completely over in less than 60 days. I want to do my very best NOT to hurt my children in this - - - but how!?!

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M.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

At their young ages, the less you tell them the better. After Daddy moves out and the kids ask questions, just give them simple answers like "Daddy isn't going to live here anymore". Kids are very resilient. They will adjust to it quite quickly and will not remember much of it when they get older.

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C.S.

answers from Fort Wayne on

A., first of all I am so sorry to hear about your divorce!! Its never easy for the kids, but how ever you tell them let them know its not their fault and that mommy and daddy still love them very much. Being a single mother is hard but you can do it! Good Luck C.

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Q.M.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi A.,

My parents were not together when I was growing up but they each made sure that I had both of them at special times, like Christmas, even after they remarried. My dad would come and spend the night with me, my mom, and my step father on Chrismas eve so I could wake up with all of my parents around. This has meant more then they will ever know to me. The first Christmas that I spent in two different houses was after my half brother was born and by that time I was 15.

The other thing that I want to share is that my husband and I have a deal. If our marriage for whatever reason doesn't work out the kids get the house. We will keep another place where we both can have our own bedroom if we can't afford two other apartments and we will go back and forth to see the children. Because we would have created the situation not them so we feel we are the ones that should be inconvenienced. I'm not saying that this will work in your case just that you can think out of the box to come up with what works for your family.

Sending you and your family love during this tough time.

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M.B.

answers from Lafayette on

I agree with Debbie I. Be as honest as you can, given their ages, and ALWAYS stay positive about the other one. It's going to be tough, but if you can keep the kids first in both of your minds, it'll be better for them growing up with two loving households.

I come from divorced parents, and my daughter's father & I divorced shortly after she was born. I have a son now with my current, forever husband :) and we try VERY VERY hard to get along with my ex & his wife. We still disagree sometimes, but have calmly & reasonably worked out our differences. Even when she starts crying & telling me that she doesn't want to go to her dad's...and I want to say "I don't want you to go, either! :), I calmly tell her that her daddy loves her & wants to spend time with her. Sometimes I even have to say that the law says that she has to until she's 13 or so. She's really mature for her age, and she understands that. (She's 5.) That's worked for us.

Good luck & God bless your decisions!!

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L.T.

answers from Dayton on

I just wanted to add that several people clearly have not read your post correctly. How rude to comment if they haven't even read it! I am so sorry you are going through this and unfortunetly I don't think there is anything you can do to not hurt the kids, it is a fact of divorce. I was 26 when my parents divorced and beleive me they needed to be divorced but even at that age, it hurt. I guess they thought because of my age it was okay to talk to me about their loathing of the other. And it was wrong, so wrong, they were still my mom and dad and I didn't want to hear these things. So, I can tell you from my own experience, do not say hateful things about each other, it will only hurt all of you in the end. Always take the high road. I wish you strength.

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M.S.

answers from Elkhart on

Is your husband a Christian? Why is he not willing to work things out if you are? Does he not understand how divorce has shattered lives of many children & the statistics? Many divorces occur because of selfishness & unforgiveness.If he would read books, I would recommend Dr. James Dobson"s book, "Bringing up Boys" & "Till Death do us Part?" by Joseph A. Webb. Whatever happens, my advice is for you to never allow your children to see you disrespect your husband in any way..I wish you the best. Single mommyhood is not easy.

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J.B.

answers from Indianapolis on

A.,
Before you tell your kids, check out www.twelvestones.org. It is an intense Christian based retreat type counseling. I know a couple that was separated for over a year, had tried counseling that didn't work, and this place has brought them back together...they now counsel others. I know of 3 other marriages in trouble that went here and it has helped them tremendously. I know this is not a response to your original question, but I could not leave the site without offering this resource.
J.

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D.I.

answers from South Bend on

Both you and your husband need to sit down together with the kids and talk to them. They are still very young, and they will have trouble understanding what is going on. The best way to make this transition for your children is for both you and your husband to talk positive about eachother and not negatively. Also, any quarrels that you two may have, keep them away from the children, and in the privacy of another room. Remember no shouting matches. That is the worst thing for children to see, and hear. Also, remember to make sure your kids know that it is nothing they did to cause the break-up. A lot of kids blame themselves for the breaking-up of their parents. My parents divorced when I was 9, and I thought it was something I did, and my parents divorce was ugly. They constantly fought, called eachother names, and it was horrible. Just remember for the sake of the kids, you and your husband sit down with them and talk to them together, and no negative talking about one another. To me it seems though, as if you and your husband have been staying level headed, and that is the best thing to do for yourselves, and your children.

D.

I am 31 and have been married for 12 years. My husband and I have 3 boys ages 11, soon to be 8 (Christmas Day), and 4.

A.D.

answers from South Bend on

Hi A..
I am so very sorry to hear about the divorce. :( My heart hurts for you & your kids. I don't have any advice for you because I have never been through it.
I just have a question. I saw that you work from home & was wondering what you do?

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B.W.

answers from Columbus on

Oh Dear, I am so sorry to hear about your pain. I think you need to tell your husband that if he really wants to do whats best for the kids YOU TWO NEED TO STAY TOGETHER. The movie fireproof is out and you need to buy the Love Dare! God is in control and you need to listen to your heart. If you love him, fight!!!!!

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R.K.

answers from Cleveland on

Dear A.,
Divorce is such a nasty thing. I divorced at about the age you are and also had two children ages 6 and 2. We sat them down and explained to them that mommy and daddy wouldn't be living together anymore but that didn't mean they wouldn't be seeing both mommy and daddy, just not at the same time. We explained that we still loved them and that NONE of this was their fault, just mommy and daddy's. My 6yr old understood better than my 2 year old. It was heart wrenching to explain this to them and hearing them cry. Being a single parent was also terrifying as I lived in another state from my family, so I had no support at all. I had friends and they helped me through this time. My children had lots of "aunts" and "uncles" to go to when their father wasn't around. Later, as the children got older, this turned out to be almost all the time! He put his work first, new wife 2nd and the children got whatever was left over which for the most part, wasn't much!
I've found that being as open and truthful as possible helped. Of course, they are only kids and didn't need to know EVERYTHING. I never spoke bad of their father. It wasn't until my son was 19 that he asked some very personal questions and I then told him the truth but only because the questions he was asking were affecting him. He had pretty much figured some things out about his father and wanted me to verify it as truth or fiction. My daughter is now 18 and still to this day hasn't asked any questions and I hope it stays that way.
I don't know if you are Christian or not but a good church is a great support group. Don't know where I'd be today without my church. And don't just go, get involved! Let the people get to know you. I go to a Christian Missionary Alliance church and they are the most supportive, loving people I've ever met in my life! Sometimes, even more so than my real family!
God Bless you and you will be in my prayers. Feel free to write me anytime at [email protected]____.com

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E.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

I don't have any advice on what to tell your kids, but after reading your profile I just wanted to wish you all the best during this time which must be so, so difficult for you. My mom and dad divorced when I was five, leaving my mom a single mom to this day. She did a great job with my sister and me. It took a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices, but we were a happy family and we all turned out fine in the end. I'm sure it seems desperate, but I hope that you don't feel terrified for long. Your kids will keep you going. And as for being terrified of hurting your children, it sounds like your husband is the one responsible for that. They won't be hurt by you, don't worry. I think your kids are lucky to have you for a mom.

Good luck to you and I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas :)

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M.M.

answers from Fort Wayne on

I ALWAYS hate to hear of divorce with 2 lil ones. You say you are doing it b/c it is best for kids??? I am not sure how it is best for the kids when it will make it worse. Trust me my bro in law went through this and his daughter is now 13 and they were Divorced when she was 6, older than yours and she STILL to this day has BAD times dealing with it. I feel so bad for her she has been passing out and not well at all from this and it was 6 yrs ago but she has a bag for a mom. Not sure of your divorce and not my business but if no cheating WHY divorce if you still love him? Kids should never grow up even at this age with parents in separate homes. I really am not sure of an easy way to tell them b/c like you said your son is smart and he will figure it all out in do time I am sure and if you just say mom and dad are not in same house no longer MORE questions will come up and more and more. Just hope they do not blame themselves like MOST kids do. Sorry to hear of the big D if it can be avoided that would be nice and I am sure you feel same way since you still love him that is the sad part. Keep your chin up and I am sure it will get better for you...

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L.J.

answers from Cincinnati on

Dear A.,
I'm sorry I don't know what you should say to the kids. I would like to encourage you, however. My husband & I saw a movie called Fireproof. In it, there was a book that the husband read called "The Love Dare". This book transformed their marriage and their love for eachother. Please go and get this book and do it for your marriage. It lasts 40 days. I am praying that you make the right decision. L. J

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J.R.

answers from Cleveland on

First of all, you can do this. Being a single parent is much better than being in a one-sided marriage. (I know from experience.)

Secondly, children are extremely resilient. Yes, they're going to be upset, and there will be rough spots, but they will adapt. The most important thing is to constantly remind them that mommy and daddy both love them very much, and the divorce is not their fault.

My girls were 6 and 3 when their dad & I separated. They were understandably crushed, but (3.5 years later) they're doing great. I'm amazed at how much they've weathered. Since my divorce I've remarried (adding a stepdad and 4 step-siblings to our family), we've moved to a new town (adding new schools, a new house & new friends to the mix) and they haven't heard from their dad in almost 3 years. And yet they're happy, well-adjusted kids.

You can do this. Your kids can do this. You go girl!

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D.G.

answers from Columbus on

Your son is very Bright in deed. If you don't want the divorce then don't get it. Work on putting your marriage back together. My parents divorced just before my 13 th birthday, but I knew back when I was 5 that it was coming and did everything in my child power to try to hold my family together.Sadly it didn't work out for me. I hated having to live with one parent and go visit the other, but I got to make the decision as to whom we would live with, Because my sister was so young and attached to Mom I chose her on our behave, I was wrong.At 15 I left my baby sister and went and lived with my Dad,it was worlds apart of the love and joy I shared each day.Then after I graduated from High school and got married my baby sister went to live with my Dad. She got the attention and discipline she needed. Dad lived on a farm and we never got into trouble but living with our Mom who was busy trying to make ends meet and have a life of her own we were left to our own and both of us nearly got into serious trouble.Your kids need you both together and to work your differances out.Please talk to your husband and try to keep the FAMILY together. Divorce is a terrible thing for children.

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L.S.

answers from Evansville on

By all means try to save your marrage!! This may be none of my business but you wanted a response. Here's mine....take the love dare. The love dare is a book from the movie Fireproof. Either so the love dare on your husband or take him to see the movie(hopefully you can find a theater it is still in) Fireproof is a christian based movie on marriage. It's God's design for marriage. Marriage is a covenant relationship where promises are made before God and witnesses. Each partner gives promises of fidelity and commitment until death-not divorce-parts them. If you can't find the movie in a theater, buy the book "Love Dare" at a christian book store. The Family Christian Stores has it on sale for about $12. It will be worth it. What is will do is give you ways to let you and your husband fall in love with each other on a whole new level. This challenge can't be taken lightly, it is a difficult process but an incredibly fulfilling one. It requires a resolute mind and a steadfast determination. You must believe that God can save your marriage, pray about it!! I will pray for you and your family. I don't want to see you or your kids go through this. God designed marriage for life, divorce is not an option. I challenge you to take the love dare. I bought the book for my husband for Christmas so we could use it as a devotion to spark our marriage. Good luck. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!! Phil 4:13

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M.S.

answers from Lafayette on

My parents divorced when I was 5 and my brother was 3. Our parents got along great after the divorce, they never bad mouthed each other (while we were young) we lived with our mother and visited our dad every weekend (until he got re-married). My dad had us every Christmas Eve and took us home Christmas morning, he stayed there with us while we opened gifts even when mom had someone else in her life. To this day they and their spouses all get along and are able to attend functions together such as my children's birthdays. They made a few mistakes that still linger in my mind (26 years later); my mom asked us who we wanted to live with I remember feeling guilty about choosing one over the other, I picked mom because she would cry and my dad wouldn't. And my dad often told us he would never have a girl friend until were grown because they wouldnt stay around because of us, I saw my dad's eye watering once while he was asleep and remember crying because I thought he was sad because we were keeping him from finding a girlfriend. And as we got into our teen years they started bad mouthing each other and still do some. We also felt betrayed by them when they started new relationships. My mom moved him in real quick and let him start making rules such as what foods we could have and what we couldn't. My dad remodeled his house for her and when he started dating her he stopped taking us every weekend like he used to.

So my advice is to remain as close as possible, never bad mouth each other EVER, be consistent with your rules and guidelines at each household, always work together (including new spouses when/if the time comes)and introduce new people slowly. Tell your children that mommy and daddy still love each other and them very much but they just can't live together anymore. Assure them that the other parent is just a phone call away and that everything will be ok. Try not to let them see you cry or talk about the situation to others. They are young enough that they will adjust fairly quickly and easily and if you two vow to always work as a team when it comes to the children and you both stay involved in their lives they shouldn't have too many (if any) negative effects from this.

I am not for or against divorce, my theory is you both have to be happy, if for some reason one or both of you is not happy anymore then by all means you shold do what needs to be done if it can't be worked out then splitting up may be the only solution. Staying together "for the children" will be just as bad if not worse then divorce; miserable parents = miserable children. Hang in there and good luck!

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J.G.

answers from Columbus on

A.,
Kids are so in tune to others around them, especially their parents. I know you don't want to hurt your children, but the reality is that they will be confused and will probably be hurt at some level, regardless of how easy you try to make the situation. That is the ugliness of divorce that so many people don't want to acknowledge. However, a few things that I thought of when I read your question: 1. you can probably get some books at the library written for children to help explain divorce to them. A librarian could help you find them. 2. Many churches have great divorce care groups. For your own sanity, it would be great for you to try one and a church support can also really help your kids through this adjustment. I think you could find support that you need. 3. Never make them feel as though they are forced to choose between you or your husband. I'm an adult and my parents divorced in my 20's and it affected me greatly, and sometimes I feel torn and in the middle of things. It stinks. Anyways, I can't imagine being a single parent. Its a lot of work, and its just not how God intended things to be, so you'll have to take care of yourself through the process so you can be the best mommy for your kids. I'm sorry to read about your situation. May God help you through it. Blessings.

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K.M.

answers from Cleveland on

I'm from Fairlawn and saw your ad. My isn't quite the same, but exactly the same (if that makes any sense). My son is 6, autistic and was abused by his dad. Now, the courts are not believing me (because I didn't report it at the time - he abused me too) and my attorney (who seemed so on my side at the beginning) just wants to be done - you can tell. I just wanted to let you know that you and your family are in my prayers and I hope all goes well for them (better than mine is, anyway).

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M.H.

answers from Cincinnati on

I am soooo sorry. I have no advice for what to tell your children, but you might look into:

http://www.retrouvaille.org/

just so you can always know you did everything that you could.

God Bless

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