As difficult as divorce can be for the spouses, it may be as difficult, or more so, for the children. Many entire books and articles have been written on the subject by psychological and sociological experts. We lawyers are neither of those. We may have experienced the effects of divorce on children (and even grandchildren), but we have not had any training in how to handle the kids. It is certainly not part of the law school curriculum.
From what I have seen, sometimes children (typically not the very young ones) blame themselves for causing the dividing of the family. Both parents, separately and together, must assure them that that is not the case and must further explain that it is not a question of fault – even though it may well be – but that the two adults just cannot live together anymore and still be nice to each other. While this means that mom and dad will not be together, they will still and always be parents and they know that that is the most important thing. Continually expressing your love for the children, preferably starting some time before you announce the decision, and making sure that the children feel that love will take the edge off the creation of two separate homes along with assurances that mom and dad will be seeing and spending time with them as much as ever.
It should go without saying that parents should never argue in front of or within earshot of the kids. It’s best to do that when the kids are not around at all. Even more important is not bad-mouthing the other parent even when done without raising one’s voice. Even stating facts about the other parent, for example, “Daddy really should have been here by now” is hurtful to the child and really serves no purpose except for your own gratification. And adult children, later, will remember such behavior and it will affect their feelings for you. When in any doubt, bite your tongue. It’s your spouse you don’t love anymore, not your kids. Just remember – always – that you love them and you’ll do and say the right things at the right times.
Before signing off here, no doubt there are many cases in which mom and dad cannot stand each other anymore, but stay together for the sake of the children. Do such people really believe that kids cannot sense that their parents are no longer in love? Children are extremely perceptive and insightful, yet they likely will choose not to share those feelings. Two separate, loving homes are better than the circumstance of parents, by their actions and inaction, showing their children how not to be in love.