What I Told My Kids When They Asked Why Dad Left

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It’s a question no divorced parent wants to hear after a messy separation: “Why did dad (or mom) leave?”

What are you suppose to say in response to a question that heavy? A lite, kid-friendly version of the truth? That what’s happening is a grownup issue but you both still love them very much? 

Below, HuffPost Divorce bloggers and readers share the responses they gave their kids when faced with that heartbreaking question. 

1. I gave them a simple, age-appropriate response.  

“My children were very young. One was just an infant and the other was 4 years old. We sat him down and said, ‘Daddy has decided that he wants to live alone so you’ll have two houses now. And we love you and your sister very much so that will never change.'” — Dina S. 

2. I told them it was a grownup matter.

“I said, ‘Our relationship and the reason for our divorce is between Daddy and I. We both love you very much.’ Period. Saying that was the best advice I ever got from a counselor.” — Carolyn S.   

3. I told my daughter a version of the truth. 

“My daughter was a baby. He left me for another woman who he is married to now. My daughter is 8 now and I tell her the partial truth. I couldn’t get around it because she is a smart cookie. I didn’t lie but I reassured her of how much she is loved by me, her Dad and his wife and I told her that I want her to love them both. It took me a long time to get to this place but I’m glad I did.” — Ginen M.  

4. I reminded my child of the love we still share as a family. 

“I said, ‘Your Dad and I love you very much. We weren’t a great married couple but we parted as friends and will always work together to give you everything you need.'” – Honorée C.

5. I told my son the truth.

“Our son was 22. I told him the truth: His Dad had been cheating and had left me for the other woman.” — Rebecca C.  

6. I told them it was a mutual decision.

“My ex-husband blindsided all of us — me and the boys. He left without warning one night saying he didn’t love me after he’d already planned a three week business trip, with no opportunity for the family to talk. I held down the fort and although angry and hurt, I came to terms with divorce. When he returned, we told our sons it was a mutual decision, even though it was not. In the end, it’s what’s best. We said there would be no more fighting, that the divorce was not about them but about us as grown ups. They would have a happy mom and a happy Dad and to do that we needed to live apart. I have never bad-mouthed him. But they know he left and treated me poorly. They have asked if he doesn’t love me anymore. I simply say that people change sometimes in marriages, but no matter what we both love them. That’s the best I can do right now: love them and take care of them.” — Jenny K. 

7. I told them Daddy and Mommy were going in different directions in life.

“My children were very young. I told them that their Dad and I wanted different things. He wanted to live his life differently than me.” — Sarah P. 

8. I suggested they ask their Dad what happened.  

“I was lucky enough to be in counseling with my ex to learn how to co-parent. He explained to our triplet boys that what he had done was something a married man should never do and that was why we were getting divorced. When the boys ask me what Daddy did, I tell that that is something you need to discuss with your Dad. My motto is ‘better not bitter.'” — Janice S. 

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Faith Nouri is licensed to practice law in both the U.S. and Canadian Federal Courts. Ms. Nouri is an attorney at law in California, and a Barrister & Solicitor in British Columbia, Canada.

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