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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Guest Post: How I Told My Kids We Were Getting Divorced

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For many people, the most difficult part about divorce is the impact on the kids. And this starts on the day that you tell them about the divorce. Author L.J. Burke shares his story and surprising revelation about the day his kids were told about their parent’s divorce.

 How I Told My Kids We Were Getting Divorced

The toughest part of my divorce was telling the kids that their Mom and Dad weren’t going to be together anymore. I avoided and agonized over this inevitable conversation for weeks. You don’t want them finding out through friends or other family members. You owe it to them to break the news as soon as possible. Preferably the both of you will do this together with your happy faces on.

I don’t think there is a perfect way to tell your kids that you’re getting divorced. There are so many factors; age, maturity, any kind of special problems with physical or mental health. There is no easy way to do this. I believe honesty is the most important thing to keep in mind. Don’t give your kids any false sense of hope that you will not break up. There are way too many Disney movies where divorced couples wind up back together in some magical zany way. Shame on you Disney!

This is how it happened to me: It was a nice summer morning and my soon to be ex-wife woke me up after I was sleeping for about three hours. I worked nights and this was my nighttime. We corralled the kids into the kitchen and my ex started the conversation with, “Kids, we have to tell you something.” She stopped and looked at me for what felt like an eternity. “OK, I guess I will do the dirty work,” I thought to myself. Now I was wide-awake. “There’s no easy way to say this, kids, but your mother and I are getting a divorce.” Both kids smiled at me and told us that they already knew. They both said they heard my soon to be ex having conversations with her divorce lawyer. (Remember, kids are incredible in hearing when they want to.) I went on and told them that we would still be a family; only it will be different now. I wanted to stress how we both loved them, and nobody was going to get abandoned.

I asked if they had any questions and they both said no. They both got up from the table and went on with their regular routines. I wasn’t sure what to think of this. My stomach was still in a knot, and I felt horrible. My ex just continued to pace and really didn’t say all that much.

I realize that wasn’t the perfect way to break the news to my kids, but it could of went much worse.

If you really have no idea how to break the news to your kids, I would suggest you go to a family therapist. Also, it would probably be a good idea for the kids to see a therapist at this very confusing and often difficult time. Make sure you reassure your kids often that you both still love them very much and will do everything in your power to make this process as painless as possible.   Do this often through the divorce process. Protecting your kids is priority one!

About the author:

L.J. Burke is the author of his new book, “Divorced Dad: Kids are Forever, Wives are Not.” Burke wrote this book looking back at his divorce with clarity, seeing what he did wrong and what he did right during this tough time.  It is his sincere hope that if you are contemplating, going through or have gone through a divorce, his book will help you through this very tough time. Burke is a Police Sergeant in a major metropolitan police department. The father of his two teenage boys, Burke recently remarried and is enjoying life with his new blended family.


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11 thoughts on “Guest Post: How I Told My Kids We Were Getting Divorced

  1. I have avoided telling my boys. They’re 6 and one of them is special needs. The other one is very attuned to what’s going on but I’m scared. Very scared to tell them. I don’t want to shatter their world. They’re far too young. But it’s inevitable. It has to be done…

    1. It is such a hard discussion. It has to be done though. You DO NOT want them to hear you’re getting a divorce from any other person, except from you and or your spouse. You owe them that! Perhaps getting a family counselor involved might be a good idea. The sooner you tell them, the better off you will all be. I told my kids we were still going to be a family, but different. Make sure to reassure your kids that you love them and that will never stop. Also, they will not be abandoned or neglected. It works best if your soon to be ex is on the same sheet of music as you. Good luck to you. I have some more hints on how to deal with these types of situation in my book, “Divorced Dad” Kids are Forever, Wives are Not. I would love to send you a free copy. Let me know. My email is
      L.J. Burke

      1. I totally agree with you. They need to hear it from us, we owe it to them. But the dad has a completely different point of view. When we went to our mediation (which turned out to be useless) the mediator herself a family psychologist reiterated the point that we need to be honest with our kids. But he disagreed…
        Thank you for your insight. I’m actually getting your book kindle edition 🙂

  2. My adult children knew before me and my youngest is the one who told me what was going on! The ex told my out of state daughter that if she needed to ‘find’ him (why?, they both have cell phones) he was going to be at our condo in another state. He then told her what his plans were. I was out shopping with my son when he got a phone call. Turns out it was my daughter telling him what was going on. He and I went to get something to eat and my son was the one who told me what his dad had told his sister. When I got home the ex was gone and there as a note on the kitchen table. I had was blind sided.
    Would loved to have been a fly on the wall watching him get an airplane ticket to the condo and pack his suitcase all before I got home!
    I felt so bad for my kids having to find out the way they did and my son having to tell me but the ex could only think about himself and his feelings at the time. He left because he wanted to be happy. By doing what he did he completely destroyed the family unit. Have not seen or talked to him for over four years now. Turns out it’s the best thing he has ever done for me!

    1. I cant believe a person you trusted and loved could be that spineless. You may not see it now, but is that a person that you would want to grow old with? I don’t think so. Stay strong and take care of yourself!
      L.J. Burke

  3. I too know how heartbreaking this conversation can be. You sound like you did the best job you could do. My ex and I told our daughter when she was 9. I will never forget how she sobbed for a half hour in her little feety pajamas. At the same time, I know she would be far more damaged if we stayed together. Divorce and coparenting are hard and stressful. We try to put her first and we get along for the most part. But I wonder what it must be like for my child to live in 2 different homes. 🙁

    1. I remember the day like it was yesterday. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my palms were sweating. It is a very tough thing to do, but it must be done the right way. Your kids deserve that! It sounds like you’re a great Mom and you are very in tune with your daughter’s emotions and needs. Stay strong and do what’s right for your daughter! The rest will take care of itself. Good luck to you and keep being the great Mom that you are!

      1. Thank you so much! It’s really nice to hear someone telling you you’re a great mom. You stay strong too and continue to be the best parent!

  4. One of the worst days for sure. My ex ‘let’ me do the dirt work too! Although that was a tough conversation, I have never had any regret about the decision.

  5. One of the worst days for sure. My ex ‘let’ me do the dirt work too! Although that was a tough conversation, I have never had any regret about the decision.

    1. It is never easy to have that conversation. It should be planned out between you and your soon to be ex. Unfortunately life isn’t always that perfect. I’m sure you did a good job, even though you did it by yourself. Good luck to you and your future with your kid(s). You sound like a tough cookie!! Hang in there and always take the high road.

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