Explaining divorce to small children

June 5, 2006

When a couple in your sphere of relationships files for divorce, it presents a new host of questions.  One I have been thinking through is this:  How do I explain divorce to my 5 and 6 year old?

So far the best I can come up with is “We are all sinners.  God says so.  Person A and Person B made a promise to God and each other to stay together until one of them dies.  That’s marriage.  They have decided to sin and break that promise.  They will not stay together. That is divorce.” 

Any help out there?



  1. Sounds like a pretty good answer for them. At least at face value, without a bunch of analysis.

    You have defined the situation in clearly biblical terms.

  2. I think that works. The part about “they have decided to sin” is very context-dependent though: do both of them want to divorce, or is only one person giving up?

    Another big thing (to state the obvious) is to give your kids lots of reassurance about your own marriage.

    Also: kids look to their parents (and adults in general) as living pictures of what God is like. The sin of divorce is striking when you consider that marriage is supposed to reflect Christ’s relationship with his church. That’s liable to bring a kid to cynicism’s door.

    I’d make it a point to stress the difference between a promise a sinner makes and a promise the holy, almighty God makes. Christ is trustworthy and will not break his promises — even though people do.

  3. Hugh, I have thought about all the things you mentioned. Thanks for your input and John too.

    I am going to have to face this with my kids tonight. It pains me to see people give up.

  4. I agree with everything said so far. I’d mention that just because we are sinners does not mean that divorce is an option. A child with a proper theology may reason that because my mom and dad are sinners just like the couple in question, they are likely to get divorced also. When this has come up with us, Donna and I point out, in humility, that our commitment is to God as well as each other and that is not the case with [couple in question].

    Of course, in the end, actions speak louder than words with kids. We try to keep in mind how we treat each other in front of the kids. After a recent fight, we went to the kids and confessed that we hadn’t been very loving to each other as we should, and tried to use it as an example of how not to behave. In the process reassuring them that although we are sinners, we are committed to working through our issues with each other.

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