How To Tell Your Children You’re Getting Separated: Part One – The Mental Preparation

First – Imagine that you are about to go through the worst event of your entire adult life. Then triple it. Everything that you have ever thought about emotional pain is about to be (literally) child’s play. Your life will never be the same. Meditate, pray, chant, stroke a rabbit’s foot, or an entire fucking rabbit; whatever you have at your disposal that you feel gives you luck and courage, use it now. (Good luck.)

Second – Get emotional support from people you trust. Friends will offer opinions, well-meaning advice and condolences. Ignore the first two but take any offers of moral support, prayers and good will. You will need them. Your friends will tell you everything will be all right. (Either consciously or unconsciously, they will be lying.)

Third – Drink plenty of water. When enduring a catastrophe such as a marathon race, a death, or not having YSL pumps on sale left in your size, it is important to flush disappointment through with gallons of H2O. You will still feel like crap, but at least you will be hydrated crap.

Fourth – Seek professional advice. If you have health insurance go see someone qualified in the impact on children of divorce about the best way to approach this cluster-fuck. If you need to, find a PhD candidate or a trainee therapist and feel free to bring a cheat sheet. Seeing as you’re going to look into your small children’s faces and rip apart their hopes and dreams, you will want to use empowering language that they can understand and repeat when they’re in therapy ten years from now.

Fifth – Read the book “Just Tell Me What To Say,” by Betsy Brown Braun, or just the section about divorce. She is the reason I am still alive to tell you this story, and not in a fetal ball in a mental institution. I’m not saying it’s not going to suck, but at least if you’re fore-armed with Betsy’s wisdom, you will know your kids cannot surprise you with a question you have not already answered with your soon to be former partner in advance.

Once you have taken care of all of this and before the main event consider this;


1. Pack a bag and leave it by the door. Summon the children and say, “Daddy is not going to live here anymore, say goodbye now…” (I swear this is how a good friend of mine was told her parents were splitting up.)
2. Say, “Your father/mother has not been fulfilling certain basic human needs of mommy’s/daddy’s and so it’s time for us to say goodbye.” (Co-operate – you had children with this schmuck/schmuckette, try to remember that before trashing them.)
3. Rave about your new girlfriend/boyfriend, until the doorbell rings then, “Oh what a coincidence children, that must be him/her now…”
4. Make them feel like it is their fault you’re splitting up because they cry, whine and use their hands to eat instead of a fork. (Use the term “This is a grown up problem and has nothing to do with you guys.”)
5. Try to contain your emotion – it’s important that they know that you are disappointed too, although don’t scream, rant, rave, gnash your teeth, or throw yourself on the ground screaming “Why? Why did this marriage fail? What could I have done? I’m a bad person…” Leave the overly dramatic reactions to your kids… trust me they’ll come through for you!

I will cover these in the next post How To Tell Your Children You’re Getting Separated: Part Two – The Event. Please feel free to write to me with your own wisdom, experiences and encouragement on this very difficult subject. May we all play the best hand we can with a shitty deck.


  1. I always enjoy reading your blogs.. they are funny, insightful, very very funny and at times annoying… just like you!!!! ha ha! Really I do love reading them, and I hope you are ok.. keep up the writing.. I always say.. my writing has saved my life more than once.

  2. THere are no good words.. only shared prayers and outpourings of love. Thanks for sharing… really – All human experiences, the good and the bad – shared help the own who tells the story and the one who receives it. It helps all of us remember – we ain’t in this thing alone -and it all happens to all of us , now and again.. peace…

  3. Its super hard, its gets harder, waves. Emotional ups and downs.
    But one day , you will wake up and feel so happy and free and in love again. Really in love Susanna.
    And that is what you will tell your children. Every day , till they are sick of hearing about it. Tell them that ADULT happiness is just as important as CHILD happiness. They will have much harder time in therapy when they grow up if they grow up with two parents who out of love and miserable!
    Breath, smile , cry! all good..
    You are a great writer.
    Kiss many frogs.

  4. It sucks, but I admire you for DOING it. I’m stuck like chuck and have only gotten as far as telling my child that “some parents get divorced” and reminding her that mommy and daddy’s issues are not ever her fault. Best wishes, hugs to your babies, and remeber to breathe.

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