No child wants their parents to separate.
They want the fairytale where families live happily ever after, and why shouldn’t they? When you tell your children that you are separating it often comes as a surprise, even when things aren’t great. It’s important to recognise that your children will generally experience similar feelings to us adults.
How you deal with your separation can impact heavily on your children. The way your children may react will depend on a number of things, but two important contributors are usually age and the level of conflict and/or animosity between their parents.
Try and keep these things in the back of your mind –
- You may no longer be a couple but you are still a family.
- Children want to be loved by both parents.
- Children want to be able enjoy the love from both parents without the guilt from the other parent.
- Adults should behave as adults, meaning, behave with at least a mutual courtesy, consideration and respect towards each other in front of your children.
- Remain sensitive to their needs.
There is no doubt that your separation is a stressful period for your children, but children are resilient, often more resilient than we give them credit for. There will certainly be a high level adjustment period for them as there will be for you.
Here are a few suggestions for you to consider –
- Consult your GP if you are worried about them.
- Listen to them. You may not like what you hear but you are the adult here so be the adult.
- Don’t make them feel guilty about how they “feel”.
- Spend quality time together. Meal time is a good time, usually dinner. Start a best part of the day and worst part of the day ritual. For those who don’t do this you each go around the table telling each what was the best and worst part of the day. It’s a great way to start a conversation with your children.
- Keep an eye on behavioural changes. Now this will differ from age to age, but they are your children and you know them better than anyone else so you’ll know somethings not right. Follow your intuition.
- Speak to their school, teachers, year coordinator and let them know what has changed for them. Other than parents teachers have a huge impact on their lives.
- If you have a close relationship with their friends or friends parents give them a call and let them know about the separation and that they may need extra support.
- Remember it is okay to be upset in front of the children. You have all been through a loss and usually with a loss comes sadness.
- When they ask why, tell them. Tell them the truth, they are humans too. You don’t have to go into the nitty gritty. Be honest. Be open.
- Make sure they feel safe and have a safe environment in each home. As parents you are their safety net.
- Hug them.
- Love them unconditionally.
Be kind to yourself.