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You and your spouse started married life full of hope, but now you are both miserable. You never thought it would happen to you, but you are facing divorce.

The two of you have many difficult decisions to make, and the hardest ones will likely be about the children. One of the worst parts of divorce may be explaining things to the children. Here are some guidelines for those difficult conversations.

What to say

Be honest. Most of all, do not hold out false hope that you and your spouse may reconcile in the future. Tell your children that you and your spouse have decided to end the marriage and will soon begin to live in different homes. Assure them that parents sometimes have to live apart, but kids and parents stay connected for life. Most of all, reassure them that you love them and nothing will ever change that.

What to do

After the initial announcement, keep the lines of communication open. Let the children ask questions. Answer the questions in simple, age-appropriate terms. Listen to your kids’ concerns and let them express their emotions.

They will likely go through all the stages of grief, and they may direct their anger at you. You do not need to allow disrespectful behavior, but you should be understanding about their feelings. Address the issues that worry the kids. Mom will still coach your soccer team; Dad will continue to attend the games. Watch for changes in their habits, such as falling grades and lack of interest in hobbies.

What to avoid

Honesty is different from full disclosure. Do not speak too much about your marital woes. This means you do not share details about your partner’s affair or complain about your ex’s gambling habit. Avoid badmouthing your ex during your parenting time; you never know when kids may be listening.

Do not obsess about the divorce, especially around the children. Your kids want both of their parents to be happy. The more often they see you smile and laugh with them, the better.