Written by Claire Field

Managing Director at The Parenting Apart Programme

Claire is an expert social care consultant, whose previous roles include Managing Director of Contact Care UK Ltd. Claire has extensive experience of delivering the Separated Parents Information Programme. Claire recognised the programme’s limitations, and from her extensive experience, identified how to address the gaps to significantly improve outcomes. The result is the Parenting Apart Programme, an early intervention that prevents long-term negative impacts for children’s emotional health and wellbeing when their parents separate or divorce. The programme is unique in the UK.

Telling your children about separation or getting a divorce will never be easy, but there are definitely things to consider before you have that particular discussion with them.

Here are some of our most important tips on how to tell your children about a divorce or court order:

  • If possible, talk to your ex-partner and make sure you are both sharing the same information with your children;
  • If possible, tell your children about your divorce at the same time. They need to hear it together so that they all are told the same thing in the same way. This will allow the children to ask questions and these can be addressed together.
  • It is important that children are told as soon as possible to avoid the heartache of them finding out from others or older siblings;
  • Most importantly be polite and civil with your ex-partner while you are telling your children about your divorce. Show your children that you can be civil to each other despite the emotional situation you are going through.

It is important that children are told as soon as possible to avoid the heartache of them finding out from others or older siblings.


  • If you have children of different ages, plan to share the basic information at the initial meeting and follow up with the older children during a separate conversation;
  • It is important to agree in advance the language you will use, depending on the age of the child (there are storybooks available for younger children to help them to understand the change);
  • Know the limits of what you think is suitable for them to hear and how much they will understand. Try not to say too much or justify why you have made this decision. Keep the information bitesize, allowing your child space to ask questions;
  • Tell your children where they will be living, with whom and those areas of their lives which may change such as school, friends, home and routine;
  • Tell them when, where and how often they will meet the non-resident parent;
  • Children need to understand that the decision to live apart is an adult decision and that they are not to blame; 

  • Try to incorporate the word “we” when you’re explaining the decisions that have been made; 

  • Reassure them that no matter what happens, and no matter where anyone lives, they will still be loved and cared for by both parents; 

  • Make sure other significant adults are aware of the information shared with your children – children may ask others to check out if what they’ve been told is the truth. 

When And Where To Tell Your Children

  • Timing is important – when both parents have enough time (preferably not a school day) allow a few hours to share the news to allow your children to process it and ask questions;
  • Consider an environment with which the children are familiar, possibly their main residence so that they have other spaces to go to if the situation becomes upsetting 
for them;
  • Do not plan other activities after you have shared the information – the children may need time to absorb and talk through what you’ve just told them;
  • Consider asking another significant adult (grandparent, uncle, aunt) who is close to the children to be present to offer support.

Even if one parent is not present, as we know that this can be quite a challenging and emotive situation, it is important the absent parent is told, possibly in writing, exactly what was said at the meeting.

Recommend Books

We have compiled lists of books that have been recommended to us that you might find useful:

Books for parents going through separation.

Books/resources on co-parenting.

Books supporting you and your children on how to tell them you are separating.


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