Once you decide to divorce, you need to let people in your life know what’s going on. For example, your kids are among the first people who should know. While this is never an easy conversation, it’s one that you need to tackle as soon as possible.

What you tell your kids about your divorce depends largely on their age. For example, the way you explain the situation to a 5-year-old isn’t the same as a 15-year-old.

If you find yourself in this challenging spot, here are five tips to follow:

  • Have a plan in place: Don’t go into the conversation thinking you can say anything and then move on. Create a plan that outlines what you want to say and how you want to convey the information.
  • Schedule a good time: As one of the most difficult conversations of your life, you need to schedule the right time and place. It’s best to have plenty of time in your schedule. It’s also a good idea to choose an environment with no distractions.
  • Answer questions: Even if your children say they don’t have any questions, it’s imperative to dig around to ensure that they understand what’s going on. No matter what type of question comes your way, do your best to answer it completely and with accuracy.
  • Don’t talk about divorce and then sweep it under the rug: You can’t expect your children to forget about your divorce after you have one conversation. Make yourself available for follow-up conversations as often as necessary.
  • Be honest about everything: You want to shield your children from bad things, but lying about your divorce and what will happen next can make things worse. Be open and honest at all times.

Once you tell your kids about your divorce, you can turn your attention to the process itself. This is when you learn more about your legal rights and how to protect them. It’s also when you turn your attention to matters of child custody, child support, property division and other potential sticking points.

It’s a tough conversation to have, but telling your kids about your divorce will help clear your mind so you don’t have this weighing you down as the process progresses.