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Mumsnet users share advice on how to speak to children about divorce with amicable™

(253 Posts)
EllieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 07-Nov-17 09:37:35

This activity is closed

Divorce isn’t something that is necessarily planned for, nor is it always expected, but sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Going through a divorce can be difficult for anyone and everybody’s situation and circumstance is different. However when there are children involved it can make it just that little bit tougher. So if you, or your family or friends are going through a divorce, amicable™ want to know your advice on how to tell the children?

Here’s what amicable™ have to say: "There are always good ways of giving upsetting news. Preparation on the part of us parents makes things easier for our kids and starts our co-parenting relationship off on the right foot. For anyone with kids, this is perhaps the hardest part of separating to navigate. It is a difficult conversation most people don’t know how to have or when it’s best to have. To help couples who are yet to have that first hurdle and face the conversation head-on please share your tips and stories so that we can help more couples to navigate this tricky part of the process and start their co-parenting relationship off on the right foot."

If you have more than one child do you tell them all together or individually? Perhaps you phrase things differently depending on their age? Do you as parents tell them together or just one of you?

Whatever advice you have from either your own experiences or family/friend’s, share them on the thread below and everyone who comments will be entered into a prize draw where one lucky MNer will win a £300 voucher of their choice (from a list).

Thanks and good luck!

Standard Insight T&Cs Apply

UpOnDown Tue 07-Nov-17 13:13:23

Tell them together, reassuring them that you both love them lots.

Billericayduckie Tue 07-Nov-17 14:13:54

How the news is delivered is not as important as the children being told that the divorce is not their fault and that they will still be loved by both parents regardless of the situation. Both parents must also behave amicably towards each other in the presence of their children from that moment on.

asuwere Tue 07-Nov-17 14:32:41

I told my all DC together (then spoke to each one individually at different times) and emphasised that it was not their fault in any way and no matter what happens between Mum and Dad, it doesn't effect our relationships with them.
I have found that, although being amicable is of course important, it can sometimes be confusing for the DC to see us being friendly but still not together. I've had to explain many times why Daddy can't live here anymore - as the DC get older, they understand more though.
To be honest, the hardest part of getting divorced has been the effect on the DC (and the guilt along with it!) BUT, it's much better than staying in a bad marriage!

mbb1 Tue 07-Nov-17 14:46:17

Be as honest as you can. Don't promise anything you can't guarantee to deliver.

AVT5 Tue 07-Nov-17 14:46:57

my parents split up 8 years ago when I was 18 and my youngest brother was 9. there are 6 of us...they both told us together even though us older ones knew before they both told us

daniel1996 Tue 07-Nov-17 15:24:30

From seeing my friends and family to this in a calm way (and another totally messing up this piece of news - and the little boy for months)
Choose the right time to give the piece of news, (not before school or before bed) Avoid blaming one another and don't 'point score' in front of your child this only makes them confused. Finally tell them they are loved, and although there will be changes in their life - they will come first and not to worry.

NeverTwerkNaked Tue 07-Nov-17 15:35:18

I haven’t been able to have an amicable divorce. My ex was emotionally abusive and towards
The end physically.
However, school and nursery have always expressed how confident and positive my children are, so I think I must be getting something right!
I think honesty is important, but it must be age- appropriate. There are things small children don’t need
Or want to be concerned about. (Eg my ex keeps banging on to my son about how he “owns” the house we live in, which is nonsense but more
importantly 6 years olds generally don’t know or care about mortgages/equity/deposits/renting etc and I think it’s not fair to burden them with that).

More important than talking to them, in my experience, has been listening to them. Sometimes Ds or DD have a very strong opinion , despite their age, on how they want something to work. And I have really tried to respect that. Every child is so different, the key is to give them each opportunities to chat and to listen non judgementally. An early mistake I made was to be too positive about their dads new girlfriend, so it took longer than it should have for them to open up that they were struggling to adjust to her. I try and be more neutral about these kind of things now and take their lead

NeverTwerkNaked Tue 07-Nov-17 15:37:50

I Do think it is really important to emphasise that where there has been emotional abuse then it isn’t always possible or sensible to do the text book “right thing”. I would love to have a positive co- parenting relationship with my ex but the reality is I left him because he was a nasty bully and he still is.

ErinSophia Tue 07-Nov-17 16:20:51

Explain in a child friendly way, less them ask questions and try to be as honest as possible.

ErinSophia Tue 07-Nov-17 16:21:24


ButterflyOfFreedom Tue 07-Nov-17 16:58:38

Tell all chikdren at the same time, face to face, in a comfortable environment where they can talk freely and ask questions.
Be as honest as possible focusing on the continued love you still have for them (& always will) and reassurances that you are still their parents and still there for them whatever happens.

Hairq Tue 07-Nov-17 18:28:16

I think if possible you should do it together in an amicable fashion - not always possible of course, but in an ideal world.

greenberet Tue 07-Nov-17 22:10:17

I totally get how significant it is to co - parent for the best interests of the children and if you part on amicable terms this must be pretty straightforward especially if communication channels stay open between parents.

Having gone through an extremely acrimonious divorce I would like to know how to co parent when one parent is unreasonable. I questioned how to achieve this right from the start.

My own experience is that it has been impossible with many issues being complicated as a result. There is lots of information available for amicable splits but nothing when this cannot be achieved. Yet you are still expected to co parent by the courts.

SimoneOfHouseDavies Wed 08-Nov-17 09:30:40

I said that mum and dad would be living apart as we've realised we'd be happier that way. But mum is still mum, dad is still dad and we are both there for them and love them always. The kids were alright. It helps we have a good relationship so can go to parents evenings, birthday parties together without drama.

voyager50 Wed 08-Nov-17 09:45:17

It really depends on the age of the children but focus on the fact that they are still loved by both of you.

Don't give them false promises though, don't tell them they will see the parent they will no longer live with all the time if this isn't likely to happen for whatever reason.

CopperPan Wed 08-Nov-17 12:23:06

I think it's better to tell them all together, otherwise the ones you tell later might get upset that someone else was told first. Keep everything age-appropriate, and try to keep them informed about the practical side of things so they're not left wondering what might happen.

PhoenixMama Wed 08-Nov-17 15:13:03

I don’t think what you say is as important as what you DO! Don’t speak badly of your other half, do make sure you both attend things like games/assemblies/concerts together, don’t try & erase the ex from your child’s life (things like a picture of dc & mum at their dad’s and vice versa.

It’s not easy when you’re heartbroken or hurting, but it makes a huge difference with the kids if you’re not slagging off 50% of them.

We even had Xmas together for a few years (including ex PILs and new partners even) but I know not everyone can do that.

We also agreed that all main/big Xmas & birthday presents would be from both of us. That stops one parent outspending/showing off but also shows DD that we both want to give her what she wants.

It ebbs and flows as she gets older, a kind of divorced moveable feast, but I think if you start from a place of it not being the kids’ fault it can only grown from there.

notagain123456 Wed 08-Nov-17 15:13:14

Choose your timing and keep it to yourselves until you know for sure to avoid gossip getting back to them.
Tell them together keeping it straightforward and simple so that they understand and make sure they that know it's not their fault.
Dont place blame on one another or go into too much detail.

PaintingByNumbers Wed 08-Nov-17 19:35:12

No blame, no fault, regardless, if at all possible. And reassurance on the practicalities

WonderLime Wed 08-Nov-17 19:44:15

When my parents divorced, it just kind of happened chaotically without any real discussion. It just became a slagging match between my two parents with the children stuck in the middle.

With this in mind, I would suggest sitting down as a family and telling the children together. Give the, plenty of opportunity to ask questions - and do not insult the other parent to your children. They need to feel that they still have two supportive parents available to them, even if they no longer live together.

WarwickAng Wed 08-Nov-17 22:33:54

I would advise each parent speaks to the child(ren), whether this is together or separately. Make sure the child knows that it is no way their fault, that both parents still love them. No character assassinations- remember the other parent is still their parent. To feel safe and loved they need to know that you will still parent as a team. Be honest and open, and answer questions in an age appropriate way. Using age appropriate books may help too

Teabay Wed 08-Nov-17 23:51:25

Be truthful without being brutal.
Don't over promise.
Don't make anyone the baddie (even if they are!!!)
Take the responsibility away from your DC for a while - "because it's a grown up decision and right now I'm making it for you".

Goddamitt Thu 09-Nov-17 00:43:22

I split from my husband last year. He stayed in the house in the spare room for s few months before we told the children. Then we told them together and said 'see it happened a while ago but we didn't tell you because we wanted you to see we could still be s family' for the last year on his weekends with the children he stays in the house with them as i didn't want them to have two homes initially. He's about to buy a house on the same street and then they'll stay there. We agreed to put them first and we still do stuff as a family, he comes for a family dinner once a week and we have family days out. Behind the scenes there's obviously stuff going on but we don't let the boys see it. We leave it at the door when we're with the boys.

clopper Thu 09-Nov-17 00:48:02

Tell them together if possible. Reassure them that they will still see both parents and try not to badmouth each other.

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