How to explain to your children your plans to separate?
This article has been created to help you with the second stressful step, a guideline of how to explain your decision to your children. I hope you will find these suggestions helpful.
How to talk to your children about your upcoming separation
Most parents agonize about the effect the decision to separate will have on their children. Parents want to get it right and with good reason, because unless they are very young, children will remember how they found out about their parents' separation for the rest of their lives.
The physical separation has the biggest impact on children so it is important to tell them before it happens. This will give your children the opportunity to get clarification about how this will impact their lives and give them the time to adjust to the new situation before it happens.
If you're not sure when the physical separation will happen or if it is not likely to happen for some time, consider delaying telling your children. Telling your children a separation is coming without giving them a specific date will either make them confused, wonder it is just another threat, or create extreme stress and anxiety for the children.
These are the steps you need to take in order to explain the situation to your children while reassuring them and helping to lessen their trauma and anxiety.
- You should tell the children together. Even though usually it is more one person's decision than the other, and one parent may be very angry and bitter; this is not the time to tell the children whose fault it is or that the other parent has stopped loving them. Using the children to hurt the parent is sacrificing the self-esteem of your children for revenge. You will be damaging your child, not just getting even with your ex. As difficult as it is, you need to remove your own hurt feelings from this situation and explain the separation to your children with the priority being how to explain what is happening with the least possible trauma affecting the children and keeping them feeling secure and loved despite these upcoming changes.
- Children need to be told what to expect. Consider a time when you can be around to answer questions over the next few days.
- They need an explanation they can understand. What will be the immediate impact on their lives? Just give them the facts and keep it simple, centered on the basic, objective facts.
- What will help your children feel secure is the reassurance that they are not losing one parent.
- They need to know it is not their fault and they they are not at all responsible for this decision.
- You need to explain it in a way they can understand it without blaming the other parent.
- You also need to be prepared to deal with their reactions. It is normal for them to be angry, sad, fearful, and/or stressed. Help them find a way to express their feelings in a constructive manner. This is not the end, only the first step to the start of an ongoing conversation.
- Research shows that the less you expose your children to all of the details of the relationship breakdown, the better they do.
- Don't ask your child to choose. The choices should be made in what the law provides and what is in the best interest of the child.
- Don't, lie, but don't overshare. It's a fine line. Don't put your child in the middle by asking them to keep secrets from you ex. Your child will feel torn and conflicted. Try not to be too negative. Your child's sense of security and confidence needs to override your need to blame or be seen as the victim.
- Remain future focused.
- Make it easy for your kids to love both parents. That is the healthiest thing for your children. If you feel you need help to discuss these issues calmly and rationally, consider going for family counseling and have your therapist help with the explanation as well as offer tools to the children so they are able to express their feelings constructively.
"Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together."
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— Marilyn Monroe