Chapter 3: The first conversation

Finding the words

The expert says
Tara Noble MSW, RSW on why it shouldn't have to be a perfect conversation(3:22)Video transcript

We were surprised to learn that the kids actually knew more than we thought they did.


The first few statements can be the most challenging part of the conversation. 

Once you're seated at the same level as your child, it helps to prepare them for the difficult nature of this conversation with these four steps. 


1.  Prepare them for a difficult topic.

I need to talk about something really difficult. I’d like to talk with you about something that’s happening / has happened with your Dad.

You may have noticed some changes in my energy lately, and I’d like to talk with you about that. This is difficult to talk about.


2.  Prepare them for your emotions.

You may be concerned that your emotions will surface during the conversation. Know that it’s okay for you to be upset. You can prepare your children for your own grief in these ways.

  • Let them know you may be upset or cry while you talk because you’re feeling sad. This is natural and okay.  
  • Reassure them that even though you’re upset, they don’t need to take care of you. You’re still able to look after them.

Although I’m sad and crying, I’m still able to look after you. And if things change and I can’t care for you, your Aunt Sally will look after you.


3.  Prepare them for their own emotions.

Explain that during this conversation they may have strong feelings too. Let them know that it’s okay to express these feelings, that they’re natural and to be expected.

You may feel different things and need different things. You might feel like crying too. Or you might have other strong feelings like being mad. You may need a hug or a cuddle. Or you may want to be alone. And that’s okay.


4. Find out what they already know 

If the child may already have some information about the situation, ask them to share what they know. 

Before I tell you more, I’m wondering if you could tell me what you already know? What’s your understanding of what’s going on with Dad? 

People are often surprised to learn that their child knows more about what’s going on than they realize.