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My husband and I decided to get a divorce and my son is 6 years old. Should I let him know?

Many people may face similar experiences - while the couple choose to divorce, should they tell their children? If so, how should they tell, and should they share the reasons and details behind the decision with their children?

After making the decision to divorce, parents also face many challenges and difficulties. It is important for them to take care of their emotions first so that they have enough strength and wisdom to accompany their children.

Learning and understanding the impact of divorce on yourself and your children is crucial. It is important to discern what can be shared with the children and what should not be said in order to protect their tender hearts. Once you have prepared your words and anticipated the questions that the children may ask, communicate with them in simple language that they can understand and share the facts.

For example, they could say "Mummy and Daddy argue a lot when we live together, and we can't get along for a long time, so we have decided to separate." At the same time, they should reassure their children that it is not their fault by saying, "Mummy and Daddy are separating not because of you. You have done nothing wrong, and it has nothing to do with whether you listen or behave well."

Children may face a series of changes such as feeling confused, afraid, angry, sad and anxious as a result of their parents‘ divorce. If parents can explain things patiently, accompany them, it will be the warmest gift for their children. Hence, we encourage parents to inform their children at an appropriate time, without resorting to fabricating stories or lying by saying that the non-residential parent is away on a business trip or similar reasons. Instead, it is important to communicate patiently with their children’s questions and negative emotions, and prevent their anxiety from escalating.

Parents can follow a few key principles while explaining divorce to their children:

1. Taking care of your own emotions and processing your thoughts first

When it comes to discussing divorce with your child, can you calmly convey the message? Or is your emotional state like a thunderstorm, making it difficult to contain your sadness and desire to cry? Or perhaps there is a lot of anger and resentment, and you want your child to know that it's all the other partner's fault?

We understand that when facing divorce, parents experience a mix of emotions, and sometimes emotional outbursts are only natural. If needed, you can call the hotline at 2465-6868 to apply for our Individual Divorce Coaching service. Let a social worker accompany you to take care of your emotional well-being first before dealing with the situation.

2. Learning and understanding the impact of divorce on yourself and your child

   Almost every loving parent asks, "What negative effects does divorce have on children? Can we minimize the harm?" Our Family Resource Centre holds regular seminars titled "How to talk about 'divorce' with my children" to help parents understand their children's psychology and needs, how to put it into practice, and the importance of the principles mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Many parents realise that they understand many things in theory, but putting them into practice is challenging. The road to recovery and the challenges faced after divorce are different for everyone. Therefore, it is encouraged for both parents to find time to participate in various seminars and support groups, learn new knowledge, seek new solutions, and meet new friends who are on a similar journey to rebuild their lives.

3. Telling the basic facts

For example, "Mummy and Daddy often have different opinions and argue, so we have decided to get a divorce, so we won't argue with each other all the time."

4. Telling the change in life and future arrangements

For example, "After Mummy and Daddy get divorced, you will continue to live with either Mummy or Daddy, but you will still see the other parent and do things you enjoy with them."

5. Telling children that parental love remains unchanged

For example, "Even though Mummy and Daddy are separating, we will always be here, and we are very happy to have you as our child. Our love for you will not diminish, and we will continue to take care of you!"

In addition, it is recommended to avoid putting the decision about divorce on the child, such as asking, "is it okay for Mummy and Daddy to get divorced?" or "when we separate, who do you want to live with?" This can create psychological pressure on the child, and once divorce becomes a reality, the child may blame themselves.

When children hear that their parents are getting divorced, they will inevitably have many questions, such as "will I never see Daddy/Mummy again?" Younger children may not understand what divorce means and may ask, "when will Daddy/Mummy come back?" or "I will behave, so you don't have to separate, okay?"

At this time, the most important thing is to respond to the child's questions and emotions with gentleness and firmless, and help them understand the situation. It is also important to assist them in adopting a positive attitude towards their parents' divorce.

After going through a divorce, parents also face many challenges and difficulties. It is important for them to take care of their emotions first so that they have enough strength and wisdom to company their children.

For children, parents are the two most beloved people and their only parents. Losing either one of them brings indescribable sadness and pain. We believe that through the persistence, efforts and actions of parent, children can experience a harmonious daily life without fear or worries. In the context of “two homes”, parents can gradually cultivate new patterns of interaction and routines, providing the child with love, care and support for their healthy growth.

If you need assistance, please contact Family Resource Centre at 2465-6868.

Recommended activities or services:

  • Individual Divorce Coaching service (「離途‧同行」離異諮詢及導航個案服務)
  • Seminar: How to talk about “divorce” with my children (如何跟孩子說「離婚」家長講座)
  • Child-focused financial management workshop for divorced families: MAINTENANCE/ ALIMONY (「贍於理財」離異家庭財務管理工作坊)
  • Narrative therapeutic group for divorced fathers - Extraordinary Dad (非凡爸爸-離異父親敘事小組)
  • Therapeutic group for divorced mothers - Goodbye, Old Me(再見‧舊的我、舊的他-離異媽媽支援小組)

Source: Ms. Tommie Chan, Social Worker, Hong Kong Family Welfare Society