There is plenty of conflict in a breakup on its own without worrying about how to explain it to your children. Separating from your partner is not an easy decision to make, nor is it an easy follow-through. A marriage separation with children is that much more difficult, which is why it’s important to learn the best way to deal with the situation and the best way to tell your kids what is going on.
Separation is a painful process for the entire family involved, but that doesn’t mean you should stay in an unhealthy relationship just for your children. You may think that by staying together you will be providing your child with a stable home, but that is not always the case. You are more likely to expose your child to arguments and a palpable unhappiness. Here is how to behave with your children when you are separating.
What to discuss with your ex-partner
Before you separate, have an open and honest discussion with your ex about how you will parent after your break up. Who will get the child and when? How will you remain united as parents despite separating romantically? How will you tell your children that you are separating while assuring them that you are still a family? These are all things you should consider before telling your children about splitting up.
How to explain a marriage separation to children
- Be honest: It is important to be open and honest with your children when you tell them that you are separating. But, that doesn’t mean you should flood them with personal details about your relationship. If one of you has cheated, this is a detail your child will not need to know. Instead, tell them that while you love each other as parents, you are no longer in love and that your family will be better if you are separated for a little while.
- Use age-appropriate terms: Older children may require additional explanation of your separation than younger children. Be sure to keep their age in mind when you are giving details.
- This is not their fault: Be clear that your marriage separation has nothing to do with your children. Children have a tendency to blame themselves, wondering what they could have done differently to make you happier as parents and therefore stay together. You need to reassure them that your choice to separate is not their fault and that there is nothing they can do or could have done to change it.
- You love them: Explain that just because you are no longer living together doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore. Reassure them of your love for them and let them know that they will still be seeing both parents on a regular basis.
- Let them speak openly: Encourage your children to voice any comments, concerns, and feelings openly so that you can address them honestly.
Maintain some normality during your separation. This will make the process easier for your children during this change. This means allowing your children to see both parents regularly, maintaining their schedule for school and social activities and if possible, still doing things together as a family such as attending school functions or having a day out. Maintaining a routine will help your children feel confident and safe in their new life.
Try and be civil
Your love and respect will go a long way when dealing with your ex-partner in front of your children. This means not bashing your ex, not moving children far away from the marriage mate, and allowing full contact whenever your children need their other parent. This also means showing respect and kindness when interacting with your ex in front of your children, remaining united in parental decisions, and never undermining one another’s decision just so that you can come off as the good parent.
Do not make your children choose
Making your child choose who they want to live with is an agonizing decision that should never be put on a young child. If possible, try and distribute their time between parents equally. If not, discuss as responsible parents what living situation would be most beneficial for your children. For example, who is staying in the marital home? The child would be best left here, as to not disrupt their home life too much. Who lives closest to the school? Who has a work schedule that would be better for taking children to and from social events? Once you have made your decision, discuss openly with your children why the decision was made and how it benefits the whole family.
Do not use your children as pawns
Your children are not there to be your personal messenger, nor are they there to use as punishment to your ex. For example, keeping your children from visitations just because you are unhappy with your ex. Do not involve your children in your divorce, as much as is possible to do so. They are not divorcing your mate, you are.
Keep an eye on your children’s behavior
It is said that girls generally deal with separation and divorce of their parents better than boys. This is because females have a greater capacity to emotionally digest. This doesn’t mean that both will not experience side effects of this drastic change in their life. Sadness, isolation, difficulty concentrating, and insecurities are common emotional side-effect in marriage separation with children.
Keep other adults informed
You may wish inform teachers, coaches, and parents of your children’s close friends of your separation so that they can keep an eye out for behavioral issues in your child such as anxiety, depression, and changes in routine. This will keep you up to date on how your child is handling the separation.
Separating is never easy on you or your children. Approach the situation with age appropriate terms and do not share more than is necessary. Maintaining a respectful relationship with your ex will go a long way in making your children feel like their family is still intact.