One of the hardest conversations you might ever have with your children is that you’re divorcing their other parent. While the initial discussion about an impending divorce can be challenging, it can be even more difficult to maintain open communication with your kids during the divorce proceedings and once the divorce is finalized. The entire family will have to adjust to a new dynamic, so it can stir up a lot of fear, uncertainty, and shock if your little ones aren’t prepared for this news. Whether your kids are five years old or fifteen years old, following the steps below can make tough talk a little bit easier during a divorce.

Maintain Fun Family Activities

When you’re divorced, it can cast a dark shadow over your family life for a while. You and your kids might not know how to act around each other with this new dynamic. It can also be all too easy to fall into a rut of focusing on how your family has changed since the divorce happened.

One of the best ways to ensure that communication between you and your kids stays open during a divorce is to keep family fun time sacred. If you and your kids have bonded over swimming, make sure that you keep that up during the divorce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 36% of surveyed kids and teenagers who were between the ages of seven and 17 years of age swim a minimum of six times annually, whereas only 15% of adults swim that much. Even if it seems silly or futile to continue doing enjoyable things with your family, talking during enjoyable activities will make it feel less overwhelming to speak during challenging times.

Establish Routines and Expectations

During a divorce, everyone craves a little predictability amid a bunch of unknowns. According to the American Bar Association, all 50 states in the United States has guidelines for child support, including Hawaii and Alaska. To inform your kids about what they can expect to happen during the divorce, you’ll want to read up on the laws and know your rights, as well as your responsibilities, so you can communicate that to your children.

As you’re explaining what divorce means to your kids, you should take care not to overburden them with details that they don’t need to know. Your kids may not have the capacity to handle heavy information. Keep discussions age-appropriate and focused on supporting your kids through the divorce rather than seeking support that they can’t give from a developmental perspective or their place in the family structure as dependents under your care.

Factor Neurodiversity into the Discussion

Sometimes, it’s hard to communicate with your kids during a divorce because they may have barriers to participating in communication. While every child may have his or her ways of communicating, some children such as those with autism may need extra support to learn how to communicate and express themselves in a way that folks without autism will understand. You can use communication assistance devices such as electronic devices with buttons that help your child to communicate, pictures, written words, and more to exchange dialogue with your autistic child.

If these aren’t enough, you may want to consider therapeutic interventions. According to Autism Parenting Magazine, as many as 89.9% of parents who were surveyed witnessed an improvement in the communication skills of their child as a result of ABA therapy. Although it might not work for every family, it can be helpful to explore your options if you’re struggling to communicate with your neurodivergent child during a divorce.

Talking to your kids during a divorce takes skills and patience. It also takes practice, so don’t be surprised if you mess up on your first tries. Getting a family therapist or other professional involved can make these discussions more productive.