No matter how old your kids are, you know that telling them about your upcoming divorce is going to take them by surprise. You don’t know how they’re going to react to it. This is true for toddlers, teens and even adult children.

So how can you tell them? How can you gently break the news and lower the impact on them? What steps should you take to provide the children with the love and support that they need? Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Pick a time when you know you can stay with your children and have a long conversation. This isn’t something you bring up right before they go to school or practice for a sports team. It’s not something you say before you head to work. Ideally, pick a time — like Saturday afternoon — when you can spend as much time as needed giving them your full attention afterward.
  • Only do it after you know that the divorce will happen for sure. Never do it too early. This just opens the door to a lot of worry on their part, which they don’t need if you decide to stay together. Talk to your spouse. Find out that divorce is inevitable. Then tell the kids.
  • At the same time, do not put this off for too long. The children deserve to know. They also need time to process everything. Tell them as soon as you can without doing it too soon. That may be a tough balance to find, but it should be your goal.
  • If you have one child, it’s easier. If you have more than one, you should tell them at the same time. This is a family conversation. It may feel easier to have one-on-one conversations, but that increases the risks that the children whom you did not tell first will find out from someone else.
  • Show your kids how much you still care about them. This goes for you and your ex. Regardless of how you feel about one another, show the kids that you love them. Give them your support. If possible, do it together. Reassure them and help them adjust, rather than focusing on yourself.
  • Don’t blame your ex. Don’t blame yourself. No matter why you think — or know — that you’re getting divorced, do not get in the habit of blaming anyone when you talk to the kids. You want to protect the relationships they have with both of you.

Now that you know how to talk to the kids, make sure you take the time to consider all of your legal rights, the steps you need to take in Connecticut and when it is time for you to act.