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September 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM EDT


I’m not going to lie: If you’ve been through a divorce with kids or even contemplated a divorce with kids, HBO’s documentary Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce will simply make you sad. The more than two dozen children interviewed in the show, airing tonight (6:30 ET), are beyond cute and are extraordinarily articulate about everything from what they felt when their parents first told them about their impending divorce to what it’s been like in the aftermath.

“It was all perfect and now it’s all topsy turvy,” says Penelope, 7.

Executive produced by Rosie O’Donnell (HBO’s A Family Is a Family Is a Family) and Emmy-winning director Amy Schatz (HBO’s Classical Baby), it’s a well-intentioned guide for parents on what to do and what not to do with your kids in the process, complemented by one-on-one interviews, group conversations, and video of the kids with one or both parents.

Even a small part of their manifesto says it all:

  1. Respect my feelings
  2. Tell us it’s not our fault
  3. Don’t put me in the middle
  4. Don’t make each other  cry

The fact that these reasonable requests have to be stated is enough to give us pause. But the real reason it’ll make you cry is because most parents, regardless of how acrimonious the divorce or the tendency to vilify one another, are doing their damnedest to avoid causing their children heartache in the process. And this is a reminder that even in the best of circumstances you can’t completely spare a child that in a divorce. You can only temper it with love, respect, and patience.

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