When talking to kids about divorce, it’s critical to keep in mind what makes child psychology distinct and to account for that. Above all, make sure that the children hear and hear it often that the divorce is not their fault. Children often look for a reason or for someone to blame. They need regular reassurance that they did not cause the divorce. After all, when parents are arguing, they typically argue about money or the children. When children overhear these arguments with their names attached to them, they assume that the divorce is their fault.
The answer for “why are you getting divorced?” should be handled according to the age of the children. The generic response can be that you, as parents, had adult problems that could not be figured out between you, that the two of you are responsible for the divorce, and that the child could not have prevented it.
As children get older, you may need to give them additional information, so that they know how to sort out relationships, including their own. Just make sure that you are truly answering the question that they are asking and not giving more information than what is absolutely necessary.
If yours was an angry, yelling household, it will be easier for children to understand that reasons for divorce may exist. However, if yours was a calm, more cooperative household, the children may have more difficulty understanding the “why” and will need help sorting it out. Sometimes, with older children, it is best to give them the apparent reason (“because of alcoholism or drug addiction”) or the symptomatic reason (“we were too angry with one another and feel we’re better off living apart”).
Of course, a trained psychotherapist can be of great benefit to both you and your children during this difficult, transitional time. This is one of many areas where a trained professional can help a great deal.
The goal is not to blame the other parent for the divorce, but indicate that the problems were so significant that the two of you could not work them out. Since children come from both parents, they do not want to feel or believe that part of them may not be OK.