"Mommy and daddy are getting a divorce."
To children, those fateful words can mean a range of things, depending on their age. A baby or toddler won't understand them at all but may pick up on your somber tone and be confused or frightened by it; an older child may worry that she'll wind up like a friend at school who sees her dad only rarely, or that she'll have to move to a smaller house and share a bedroom with her little sister.
While it's just about impossible to put a positive spin on such a negative event, there's a lot parents can do to ease the difficult transition from intact family to divided one. Target your initial broaching of the topic to your child's age (if you have kids of widely differing ages, you might consider talking to each of them separately). And then be prepared to have your child come back with more questions as the years pass and she comes to understand the situation more fully. Some guidelines for talking to kids of various ages when a marriage splits apart.
Mary Garner Ganske's last piece for PARENTING was "Make Over Your Weekends!" in the March issue.