Skimm Scripts·4 min read

How to Have ‘The Talk’ With Your Partner About Kids

A couple sitting next to each other on the couch. Text on the right reads: "Have The 'Kids' Talk, Script"
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
March 26, 2024

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There’s no way around it: Talking about whether or not you want to have kids can be uncomfortable. Especially if one person wants them and the other doesn’t (or is on the fence). But it’s not a conversation you should put off, says licensed psychologist Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD. Delaying it will only set you up for more difficult roadblocks — whether that’s a breakup, regret, or resentment. Here’s how to bring the topic up, and what questions to ask your partner to get you both talking. 

How and when should I talk about having kids?

“Ideally, this conversation should happen before the relationship becomes significantly serious or headed towards long-term commitment, like moving in together, engagement, or marriage,” says Rubenstein. But the right time for you might not be the same as another couple — it’s all about striking a balance between too soon and waiting too long.

Here are a few conversation starting points:

  • “How do you feel about having kids in the future?” 

  • “You were so great with my nephew. You seem like a natural with kids. Is having children something you want in the future?” 

  • “I’ve been thinking about the idea of having children in the future. It’s such a big decision. What are your thoughts?” 

Starting the conversation may be the hardest part, but there’s still a lot of work ahead. Here’s what Rubenstein recommends saying if…

Your partner isn’t sure if they want kids, but you do:

Try to respond respectfully and acknowledge their honesty by saying something like: 

  • “I appreciate your honesty. Can you share more about your feelings on this?” 

  • “Having children is important for me. I would like to try to understand what this means for us given our different views.” 

Your partner wants kids, but you don’t (or aren’t sure):

Be intentional about seeing your partner’s perspective, but don’t minimize your feelings. Try:

  • “I understand that you want to have kids. I don’t want to have kids because [INSERT REASONS].”

  • “Since we have different views on having children, I’d like to explore what parenting looks like for you.”  

If your partner isn’t ready to have kids — but your biological clock is ticking…

Be honest about your fears or anxiety. One idea: 

  • “I understand you don’t feel ready to have kids yet, but I want to talk about timing. I’ve been feeling pressure about my biological clock and want to explore together how to move forward.”

You and your partner decide you want different futures, and it’s time to part ways:

This is likely a painful place to reach. Rubenstein says to validate whatever emotions you feel and practice self-compassion — you stood up for what feels right for you, even though it was difficult. Try saying:

  • “I have spent a lot of time thinking about the future and how we both feel regarding having children. I respect that you do/don’t want kids, but I also know that having/not having kids is what I want. I think we should give each other the opportunity to find a partner that shares the same feelings and part ways.”

Don't hesitate to seek support, Rubenstein says. “Having others to share your feelings with … can also offer alternative perspectives that might help you see your situation in a different light.”

Anything I shouldn’t say or do during the conversation? 

Glad you asked. Rubenstein says to try not to:

  • Bring kids up in front of others, like family or friends. Keep it private. 

  • Give an ultimatum. “It can create a confrontational relationship based on fear. Instead, you could consider an alternative like counseling to help create a safe atmosphere for decision-making,” says Rubenstein.

  • Get angry, make personal attacks, or take it too personally. Avoid saying things like, “What’s wrong with you?” or “I’m sure you would feel differently with someone else.”

  • Change your stance on having kids for the sake of the relationship. Your decision to have or not have kids has to be authentic to you — not a way to avoid a breakup or to make your partner happy.


Making life-changing decisions about your future is hard enough on your own, let alone when you have to involve someone else. But having a few difficult conversations now can strengthen your relationship — or give you valuable information to help plan your future.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 

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