We are planning to separate and divorce. We have not been in an openly angry or abusive relationship. The children have never seen us fight. They probably do not think anything is wrong. What I want to know is what the best way is to tell them. They are 12 and 10, a boy and a girl. Their father does not want this separation and divorce, and I am worried over what he might tell them.

There is no substitute for the truth.

The problem comes in how you tell it.

First, try to get your husband to agree to a meeting with your children. He definitely needs to not make himself the virtuous hero. It is probably helpful for you to do most of the talking.

Second, give the kids the facts but not the issues between you and your husband. They need to know the following.

You both love them and will continue to do so when everything is changed.

The separation has nothing to do with them. It is not their fault, and you must be clear and definite about that.

They will be uppermost in your mind. All plans will have them in mind. You both will see to that.

Give them a time table if you know. Do not over elaborate with details.

Answer any questions that come up in words and language they can understand. Some questions may be: "Don't you love each other? What has happened? Why" etc. Be prepared with non blaming, simple explanations. Avoid heavy, charged words. Expect an emotional family meeting. Show them direct affection and do not be fearful of shedding your own tears.

If, over time, you notice changes in the behavior of your children, do consult a professional.

• • •

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can e-mail Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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