For a married couple with children, the idea of changing family dynamics can feel intimidating and overwhelming. If a couple decides the marriage needs to end for the betterment of everyone involved, an important next step is to tell the children about this decision.

If you need to approach the topic of divorce with your children, consider a few bits of basic advice before starting this conversation. When possible, take some time to prepare for how, when and where you’ll have this discussion as well as who should be present in the family.

Prepare your talking points

Telling kids about a divorce will be a unique experience for every family unit. You know the dynamics at play in your family, so take some time to consider each person’s needs and communication style before starting the conversation.

The only thing you can control is a conversation is yourself. What you say matters and can have lasting effects on children as they replay this monumental moment throughout their life. Don’t go in unprepared; have a general idea of what you need to say and be sure to get through the important talking points before the conversation detracts. You can control what you say and how you say it, so give some consideration to this element of the conversation beforehand.

Consider multiple possible reactions

Everyone reacts differently to hearing major news. If a marriage is ending, it’s not uncommon that things have been tense and difficult leading up to this decision. If that’s the case, your children may feel a sense of relief that the tension in the home can now dissipate. They may also feel sad that their family and life are changing in a major way. They could also feel any combination of positive and negative emotions.

No matter the reaction, it’s important that parents prepare for and remain considerate of the response. They may ask questions and parents should try to give adequate answers when possible. It’s not likely that any parent can completely prepare for a child’s response to news of a divorce, but everyone can do their part in making this transition easier for children involved.

Prioritize children throughout divorce

A child’s interaction with divorce doesn’t end with hearing the news. They will be part of the divorce throughout the entire process from child custody arrangements to parenting plans and even property division that includes the family home. Parents need to continue monitoring and prioritizing the needs of children during the entire divorce process.