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Breaking divorce news to your children

Your children are accustomed to living with both of their parents. They feel stable in having you both there because that is the only arrangement they've ever known. If you and your husband decide that the marriage is over, one of the most difficult first steps may be breaking the news to the kids.

Of course, you want to address the matter in a loving, age-appropriate way. With that in mind, here are some things to consider:

When is the best time?

This is an important decision to make. For example, news of the divorce isn't something you deliver on the way to school or before the kids go to bed -- or when they're about to be alone or only with friends. Also, it's a good idea to avoid telling the kids during a holiday, which could forever become tainted by the news.

Instead, it's best to tell the children about the divorce when you know they'll be home and awake -- and have some time to think about what they've learned and ask you questions.

Exactly what will you say?

Let your children know that they have nothing to do with why you and your spouse are separating. Let the kids know that none of it is their fault -- that the reasons for the divorce are between you and the other parent alone. You don't have to get into the details of why the divorce is happening. Just let your children know that you and the other parent will never stop loving them.

Also, be prepared to answer questions. Where will the children live? When will they get to spend time with each parent?

Young children might have simple questions, but you might encounter more complex questions from older children. Try to answer their questions honestly, but remember that you and the other parent don't need to bash each other or say things that make the children think they need to take sides. Encourage your children to express their emotions and reassure them that you will still be there for them.

If you think doing so might help, you might want to write out beforehand what you plan to say.

Think carefully about child custody arrangements.

The sooner you do this and agree on a plan with the other parent, the sooner your children can learn the new way of life and start to settle into a new form of stability with two homes.

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