One of the toughest moments in a divorce is telling the children. Although it is better to tell the children together, sometimes one parent selfishly decides to tell the children his or her story alone, without involving the other parent.

According to Huffington Post Divorce, Family therapist Diane Shearer says parents should look beyond the questions about divorce and get at what kids are really asking for. "When kids ask tough questions, they aren’t looking for complicated answers. They are looking for affirmation, not information." This means they want to be assured that both parents love them no matter what. They want to know that the parents recognize their turbulent feelings.

Here are some tips on three of the most common questions.

1.  Why?

Kids want to know the big picture reason behind the break-up. According to Shearer, the child really seeks an affirmation of love. The child’s subconscious logic may be, if mom and dad can stop loving each other, can they stop loving me too? The child isn’t asking, nor does he or she need to be told, all of the real reasons for the split. Instead, both parents should provide reassurance to the child that both parents still love him or her and they will all continue to be a family – just a different family than they have been.

2.  Is it my fault?

Children, especially young children, can be self-centered and can’t help but wonder if something they did caused the split. Sometimes this will cause children to become pleasers – trying to please each parent so maybe they will get back together. The most important response to this question is reaffirm both parents’ unconditional love for the child and reassure them that the complications the parents face are unrelated to the child.

3.  Where will I live?

A child will want to know how the break-up affects his or her life. It is best to have a decision about when the child will see each parent before offering the child an answer. Certainty for the child is important since other aspects of their lives are in upheaval. Tell them where they will be, when, and for how long. Speaking positively about the other parent at this time is extremely important for the child’s wellbeing. If there is no finality as to a parenting time schedule, offer the child as much certainty as possible. Be honest by saying that some of the answers haven’t been decided yet, but that the child will see each parent frequently.

What questions are your children asking you about divorce? And, how are you answering them?

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.