Ensure a happy and healthy future for kids by divorcing with dignity

For conscientious parents who are facing divorce, one of the first questions they ask is how do we tell our children and how should we behave post-divorce for the sake of the children? How you divorce and behave during and after the divorce affects your children for the rest of their lives. By learning how to divorce with dignity, you will contribute to your children’s happiness and healthier future.


Do present a united front

As difficult as this may be, a united front is crucial. If you think that your children took advantage of you not being on the same page when you were married, just wait until you are separated and divorced. If they detect the smallest crack between you and your partner, they will surely use it to their advantage.

Do keep your explanation simple

It is important to create a simple statement that you both present, which begins with, “Your mother and I...” and “Your father and I...” have decided that we are going to get a divorce or live separately. To further explain, you can simply say, “You may have noticed that we have been fighting a lot lately.” Keep in mind that it is vital for you both to participate in telling the children--if you can do so in a civil way.

Do reassure kids

It is not uncommon for kids to ask if you will one day leave them too, since you once loved their mother or father but still got divorced. They need to hear that you will never leave them and that you will always love them. While it may be difficult, you should reassure them that you will always love their mother/father, but sometimes loving someone is not enough to remain married to them.

Do tell kids when you have the answers

Children are very inquisitive because they are trying to make sense of their world. When changes occur, they need to find a way to feel safe and secure. Only tell them when you know who is moving out, when they are moving out, if kids have to move or change schools, and when they will be able to see the parent who is moving out.

Do remember that children need both parents

Sometimes, parents think it would be better to catch up with their children when they get older because of the conflict between parents. But children often feel abandoned and want nothing to do with this parent once they get older. Unless a parent is abusive, addicted or incarcerated, psychologically it does great harm to children to not have both parents raising them. Children need both of their parents because there are things that each parent can give the child that the other parent cannot.


Do not disparage the other parent

Your child is half mom and half dad. So every time you say something derogatory about the other parent, you are condemning part of them. In the end, they will grow up angry at you for this.

Do not keep children from seeing the other parent

Many times, one parent does not want their kids around the other parent, due to a belief that this will cause a child to actually become like the other parent. However, the best way to ensure that your child becomes similar to the other parent is to keep your child away from them. When kids are kept from their parents, they tend to turn into that parent, right down to facial expressions and body language.

Do not pretend the other parent does not exist

If you do not mention the other parent, you are denying part of your child’s reality. This will cause your child to feel uncomfortable when mentioning the other parent, when they actually need to feel free to talk about all of their experiences.

It is also disrespectful not to mention the other parent. Instead, remind your children of happier times and have a picture of the other parent in their bedroom, so they can maintain a strong connection when they are apart.

Do not introduce kids to your new love too soon

Children need to grieve the loss of their family and the only world they have known. They will see someone new in your life as a replacement for their other parent--and they will resent you for this if it is premature. It does not matter if you think your new partner is a better mother/father than your previous partner. You have already chosen their mother/father and no one will ever replace them in their lives. Do not introduce anyone new for at least 6 months. And never make an introduction until you know your relationship is permanent. Your children do not need to experience your dating life. Instead, date when your kids are not with you.

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How you divorce and how you behave after the divorce affects your children for the rest of their lives. When you divorce with dignity, you are teaching your children how to behave by your example--not just by the words you speak. Each day, demonstrate that you love your children more than you dislike your former partner. By doing this, you will be contributing to your children’s happiness and healthier future.

More expert advice about Families in Divorce

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Robin Siebold, Ph.D., LMHCPsychotherapist

Robin Siebold, Ph.D. is trained in counseling psychology and spirituality. She specializes in divorce and relationship issues, dysfunctional family systems, communication skills, codependency, parenting and most recently, collaborative law. Dr. ...

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