Going through a separation can be very emotional.Matters can be complicated when kids are in the picture.You might have a hard time telling your child the news or what to say.Preparing in advance, explaining the separation in direct but brief words, and assisting them with the transition is how to effectively discuss this difficult topic with your child.
Step 1: First, gain control of your emotions.
If your spouse just recently broke the news of a separation to you, or you are still coming to terms with the decision, you should probably wait before talking to the kids.Depending on their reaction, you will want to be able to emotionally support them.It will be a challenge if you still wreck yourself.Before the talk, ask for some time and space.Is it okay for you to give me a week before we tell the kids?I need to wrap my head around this first.As you come to terms with the separation, be gentle with yourself.
Step 2: You can get on the same page.
There should be a united front between the parents.You need to be clear about what you are saying to the kids.Discuss the details before the event.Stick to the script once the two of you agree on what to say.You could say, “Your father and I are going to separate.”Your spouse can say, “We aren’t getting along anymore.”Let the child know that they are loved by both of them.
Step 3: You should plan to do it together.
It will be difficult to tell the children the news on your own.As a reminder, they need to see you and your spouse working together.At least, it hasn’t changed.It’s a good idea to coordinate with your spouse on a time and place.Pick a time when you are both free and relaxed.You can offer support to the children if you clear the rest of your day.You could delay the discussion until closer to the planned date if the separation isn’t happening for some time.The children might become confused and think it is over.Try to remain objective if one of the parents is unwilling or unable to participate.Don’t badmouth the other parent.Stick to the facts.
Step 4: It should be simple and brief.
Talking about separation isn’t fun, but get to the point and not try to dress it up.You could say that Mom and Dad aren’t getting along very well.We will be taking some time apart and living separately.Don’t be defensive or accusatory about your spouse.
Step 5: The details should be kept to a minimum.
If there is tension in your marriage, your kids don’t need to know all the ugly details.Keep the focus on them and say what you need to say.It would not be appropriate to mention cheating, abuse, or financial troubles.If you introduce your children to adult problems, it will make matters more complicated.It’s better to keep it short and simple.By living apart, Mom and Dad will be happier.
Step 6: It’s a good idea to be reassuring.
There are many ways in which kids may react to the news of divorce.Your parenting role stays the same as things change in your marriage and household.Both parents need to convey to their children that they love them and will be there for them.It is happening because we can’t get along.You did nothing wrong.We will always love you.We won’t be living together, but we will be taking care of you.
Step 7: Explain how it will affect them.
As soon as possible, address how a separation affects a child’s life.Let them know how their lives will change as a result of this new reality.You could say, “Dad will continue to stay here with you guys, and Mom will be leaving.”You will spend weekends with me when I get an apartment nearby.
Step 8: Answer questions in a way that is appropriate for their age.
Your child may tell you why they think you are splitting.Don’t lie to enhance their trust.Don’t talk about details either.Agree that the suggested behavior is part of the problem, but that there are other issues as well.You should keep explanations appropriate for your child’s age.Younger children of preschool age may think that one parent is leaving and the other is not.Correct the misconception that it is their fault.Older children may want their parents to come back together.Let them know that the decisions are not theirs to make.Your child may have an idea of who they want to live with, but you should explain that there are other factors.Both parents have come up with a custody plan.
Step 9: They should talk about their feelings.
Discuss what your children are thinking and feeling after the initial talk.This will not be a single conversation, but rather an ongoing discussion.One child might be asked, “You’ve been very quiet over the past few days.”I think that this is very confusing.I want you to know that you can talk about your feelings.I am here to listen.
Step 10: They should not be involved in the squabbles.
It is easy to pull the children into conflict when you approach the initial conversation as a unified front.Establish clear boundaries with your spouse to avoid this.Agree to not discuss one another with the children, or question what is happening in the other’s household.When dropping off and picking up, keep in touch.Don’t send messages to the kids.It is possible to communicate through written messages.
Step 11: They should maintain their schedule.
A separation can be difficult for a child to handle.Keeping to the kid’s usual routines is the best way to maintain some semblance of normal.Try to follow the same schedule.Set the same limits and guidelines.
Step 12: Family therapy can be considered.
It can be difficult to cope with a separation.It is wise to seek the help of a marriage and family therapist during this time.A professional can offer emotional support to the parents.They can tell you how to navigate your new reality.Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions.They can give you feedback on your life after separation.