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Breaking the news of a divorce is hard, but there are things parents can do to help ease the blow and lessen the upset their children may feel.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 26,000 couples across the state got divorced in 2013 alone. Some married couples who choose to split have children who they must break the news to. For many parents, talking to their kids about the end of a marriage is a difficult conversation. While they cannot eliminate all of the hurt the news will cause, there are things they can do to help ease the blow.

Don’t wing it

Some people may feel it best to just sit down with their children and speak from the heart. Although it is helpful to be honest when telling their kids they are divorcing, it is suggested that parents plan what they will say ahead of time. People may find it helpful to decide on key points they want to get across to their children during their initial conversations about a divorce. They should give them as much information as possible, while keeping the conversation age appropriate. It is also important for them to reinforce that it is not the children’s fault when they are breaking the news.

Talk as a family

In some cases, the decision to split may not be mutual and divorcing couples may not get along. When they are talking to their children about their decision to divorce, however, it is vital for parents to set their differences aside. It is advisable that parents sit down together with their children in order to break the news. This may help them reassure the kids that they will still be there for them, even though they no longer want to be married.

It is common for parents to tell their older children about their plans to divorce before telling their younger kids. Psychology Today recommends people tell all of their children they are divorcing at the same time. Leaving younger children out sends them the message that they cannot deal with problems. By the same token, telling only the older children burdens them with having to keep secrets from their siblings.

Prepare for questions

When children are told their parents are getting divorced, it is common for them to have questions. People should be prepared to answer their children’s questions about the divorce as best they can. If parents are unsure of how things will work or how to respond to their kids’ concerns, it is okay for them to be honest and tell their children they are not sure. Addressing their questions instead of side-stepping them may help parents to alleviate some of the anxieties and fears the news of a divorce may cause their children.

Keep the conversation open

Parents magazine points out that it takes time for children to process their feelings. Therefore, the initial conversation will really just let them know what is going on and open the lines of communication. It is advisable for parents to allow their children to express how they are feeling and they should regularly check in with their kids to see how they are coping with the changes.

Working with an attorney

The longer and more acrimonious Arizona divorces are, the harder they may be for families to get through. Those who are considering splitting from their spouses may benefit from seeking legal counsel. An attorney may help them negotiate settlements and guide them through the legal process.

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