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Should I Tell the Kids About Marriage Counseling?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Should I tell my children, ages 16 and 10, that my husband and I are going through marriage counseling? We should have gone to counseling years ago, but my husband would never agree, and now I think it may be too late. I guess I am wondering if I should prepare the children somehow.

A: I would not prepare your kids for the possibility that you and your husband will divorce. This would be an unfair emotional burden for them to carry and would seriously impair their ability to maintain a healthy, daily existence. My guess would be that kids this age have already begun to worry about the status of your relationship, your marriage, and the future of the family, especially what will happen to them if you do divorce.

If your kids ask about it, do not lie about being in marriage counseling. If they ask you directly, "Does that mean that you are going to get divorced?" I would not respond with your present belief that you probably will divorce. I am not suggesting that you lie to your kids or give them unrealistic expectations about the future of your marriage, but unless you and your spouse have decided to divorce, I do not think that it's fair to predict the future.

If you do decide to divorce, I suggest that you both sit down with your kids approximately two weeks before one of you moves out or some other dramatic event takes place. The children should be prepared for all of these events.

I know that you are pessimistic about the future of your marriage. I wish you the outcome that serves both of you the best. I am sure that you will take special care of your kids during and after a divorce, if that is the outcome of your work in counseling.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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