How to Tell Your Children You Are Separating

If you and your partner have decided to separate, you might be wondering how best to tell your children. How should you talk to your child? What can you say and do to help them get through the process? Regardless of their age, children need to be told that their parents are separating, and while they don’t necessarily need to know the reasons behind the separation, they need to understand that it is not their fault and that they will continue to be loved unconditionally by both parents. Robert Wood and Associates is a boutique legal firm, home to compassionate family lawyer Melbourne couples trust with their separation, divorce and child support matters.

Here’s a few things that may help you break the news to your children about your impeding separation.

Don’t Delay the Conversation

Children, both young and teens, are incredibly perceptive and will sense something is going on even if you have shielded them from the situation so far. Hearing of the separation won’t be easy for them, but secrecy and uncertainty can be even more damaging as it can lead to worrying, stress and anxiety, which are often worse for kids than the reality of the separation.

Discuss the Situation as a Whole Family

Sit down as a complete family and tell your children together, and include all your children in the conversation. Nothing is worse than one child finding out before another or being told by one parent only. This can lead to resentment and fear that the future will be difficult for them.

Pick a Good Time

When you decide to have the discussion, don’t pick a time when someone is tired, hungry, or rushing out the door. While it may not turn out to be a long discussion, both parents need to be available in case the children have questions, want to talk, argue, cry, or need a cuddle.

Explain in Simple Terms

No matter how young or old your children, they don’t need to know about the complex reasons for the separation, and younger children won’ be able to understand anyway. Stick to the basics – which parent will be moving out, where the children will live, who will look after them and how much time they will spend with the other parent.

Focus on the Future

Try to stay future focussed and talk positively about the future. Describe the arrangements for future parenting, who will drop them at school, who will pick them up, where they will spend their weekends and explain how it might make things better.

Emphasize They Are Loved by Both Parents

There’s nothing a child fears more than losing one or both parents. Children need reassurance that both of you will be there for them, love them and protect them forever regardless if you are together or separated.

Be Civil and Respectful to Each Other

It’s important that you don’t criticise or belittle the other parent in front of the children. No matter what the issues are between you and your spouse, your child will be happier, healthier, more resilient and feel safer if they feel you are united in putting their best interests before your own.

Don’t Drag It Out

Once you have told your children you are separating, it’s important to move forward with the process, sort out the practical issues and start establishing new routines. The sooner your children are settled into the new routine, the easier the transition will be to the new ‘normal’.

Be Understanding of Regression

While your children may take the news well, over the coming days, weeks or even months, you may notice reactions to the change in the way of anger, tantrums, sadness, clinginess, anxiety, and general irritability. You may even notice your children struggling to sleep, start wetting the bed or having nightmares. Be patient and calm, children adapt at different rates but with love, support and constant reassurance, this is a stage that should pass quite quickly.

Separation is stressful, but it’s been shown that a child whose parents are confident, civil, calm and loving can make it through the separation with better coping skills and greater resilience.

If you are separating and need advice on divorce, property settlements or custody arrangements, get in touch with the team at Robert Wood and Associates today. Our family law lawyers based in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, are here to guide you through the complexities of law and provide expert advice on the procedures involved. Call us today on (03) 9762 3877 or enquire online.

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