Separation can be a very taxing time for the parents. It is natural to feel overwhelmed and alone. Meanwhile, there are decisions and plans to make and carry on parenting in spite of all the upheaval in your life.
The biggest concern of couples going through a separation is how the separation will affect the kids and how will they cope with the imminent changes in everyday life. Even a well-planned and amicable separation can cultivate the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in children. Children see and feel things differently from adults. They might find it difficult to deal with separation because they feel their lives are turning upside down. They are likely to feel:
- Bewildered and lonely
Your children may try to hide their own feelings to protect you. Do not underestimate what your child is going through at such a time. Your full support and positive reinforcement of love are what will help them cope with these early days of separation.
Separating when you have children can be very complex. Do you need to take many important decisions such as how will you tell your kids? What will you say to them? When will you tell them? Separation is a difficult time as you yourself are feeling unsure and vulnerable. At such a time you want to tell your kids that their lives are going to change in a way that will not cause them distress and very little pain.
How will the children react to separation?
Separation can be very stressful for the children and how they cope with it depends on several conditions:
- How the parents cope with the break-up and other ongoing relationships. The recovery and adjustment are easier for children if parents are sensitive to their children’s needs.
- The circumstances leading to separation. Was it amicable and calm or did the kids witness any drama or fights?
- The stage of development and age of the children
- The temperament and nature of the children- are they easy-going or tend to take everything very seriously
How will the children feel?
Separation is a painful time for the family as a whole. Your children may feel that they are to blame. They might fear abandonment and feel insecure. They may be going through a myriad of emotions and feeling sad, angry, hurt, surprised, frightened, confused, or worried. They may also be grieving for the loss of their family as a unit. They may also start fantasizing about their parents getting back together. They might also experience some behavioral changes such as acting out, skipping classes or not wanting to go to school, wetting the bed, becoming moody or clingy.
How to help your kid through this difficult time?
Although parents themselves are often confused and upset at this time, it is important for them to try and understand what their children are going through and consider their feelings. Children have to deal with multiple adjustments and changes when the parents separate: changes in discipline, family lifestyle, and rules. They have to deal with other changes such as a new school, a new school, and a new partner in their mother’s or father’s life. They also will have to cut down on luxuries as there would be less income.
As parents, it is your responsibility to access the situation through their eyes and comfort them and guide them through this tough time. Things to keep in mind when you tell your children that you are separating:
Your child should never doubt your love for him. He must know that both the parents still love him. You may not love your partner anymore, but the children love both the parents and they might find it hard to understand why you two are separating. They will need constant reassurance that both the parents still love them.
Be honest with them
Try to be as honest as you can with them without going into unnecessary details. Explain to them in a simple manner but do not blame your partner. Tell them where and when they will see the other parent and who will be moving away.
Don’t make them choose sides
Ease their minds by telling them that they do not have to take sides. Criticizing the other parent in front of the children often hurts the children. Children love both the parents so avoid saying negative things about your partner in front of them.
Assure them that they are not to blame
Convince them that your separation is a mutual, adult decision and is in no way the children’s fault. Also try to make fewer changes in their lives as familiarity will bring them comfort.
Like parents, children are also stressed by the changes in their lives and the separation of their parents, but with care, time, and support most children adapt to these changes.