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Expect surprising reactions when telling children about divorce

When you break the news to your children that you are getting divorced, you may expect them to feel sad or confused. You may think they'll ask questions about why the marriage is ending and what it means for their living situation.

They may ask these questions, but the thing to remember is that those are largely adult questions. Children may have very different things on their minds when they learn of an impending divorce.

For instance, one mother told her daughter that she and her spouse were splitting up, and she was shocked when the 8-year-old girl said, "Am I still having a birthday party?"

To a parent, this is a minor detail. Of course the daughter still gets a party. To a child who has been looking forward to her birthday party all year, though, this may be the most important question in the world.

Experts note that kids often ask about things like whether or not they will see the same group of friends, go to the same school or play on the same sports teams. These are the staple events that define their days. They do not think about the world outside of these confines, and they are less likely than adults to think about the big picture. They just worry about things that can disrupt their lives and the stability they have come to know.

As a parent, you need to expect these surprising reactions and prepare for them. You can also take steps to minimize the impact of the divorce on the daily life of your children. At the same time, make sure you also take steps to legally protect yourself during the divorce.

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