Q: My husband and I are getting divorced, but I don't know how to tell our 11-year-old. I don't want her to feel like I'm abandoning her.
A: First and foremost, it's essential that you break the news to your child with your husband, says Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D., dean of education at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She suggests, "Say, 'Your father and I have decided that it's the best decision for us to end our marriage. We know this is difficult news for you to hear, but we want you to know that we both love you very much, and we're still going to work together to be your parents.'"
Then, reassure your daughter by giving her concrete examples of how you'll both remain her parents as much as before. Explain to her the way things will be different. "An 11-year-old needs to know exactly how the breakup will affect her life," says Dr. Conoley. If you're moving out, tell her the specifics of when you're leaving, where you're going, and how you plan to stay in touch. If there are special rituals that you share and want to preserve -- like going out for pizza once a week -- let her know that now.
After the divorce, the best thing you can do is to stay involved. "See your child as often as possible, in as many different settings -- at home, during school events, on vacations -- as you can," notes Dr. Conoley.