Tips for explaining a separation to your children

Separating from your partner is a difficult time, especially if you have children. Whether you are married or not, there is often a legal process involved. If you are not officially married, you may want to read about ‘what is common law marriage’? It is usually stressful for everyone, including children, and so you need to try and handle it as best you can. Here then, are some tips for explaining a separation to your children.

Be a team

When you are explaining the change to your children, you should do it together. Even if only one of you talks, the other should be there. Show that you are united and emphasize that you both still love your children very much.

Plan the talk

Plan what you are going to say before you sit your children down. Use language that is understandable to them and keep reassuring them that it will be ok.

Have details planned out, such as where they will be living and when they will be seeing the parent who is leaving? Give them space to ask any questions.

If your children are very young, then click here for some advice on what the talk may look like.

Don’t blame

Break the news as simply as possible. Don’t give them any information they don’t need, such as if someone has cheated. Use neutral and blame-free language.

Children often consider themselves an extension of their parents and so often blame themselves. Let them know that it is not their fault. Explain that you just don’t love each other like you once did.

Consider the age and prepare for questions

Older children may have more of an idea of what’s going on. Try to stay calm and neutral, even if you need to be truthful.

Acknowledge their feelings

Let them know that you all find it sad, and it is ok to feel that way. In the long run, things will be better.

Stress what will stay the same

Explain what won’t change, such as their home and school. You both still love them as much as you did before.

Two weeks’ notice

Children should be told around two weeks before any changes happen. This will allow them to process what is happening and ask any questions. Telling them the day one of you moves out could be too much too soon.

Small doses

You may want to talk to your child about it repeatedly. Especially once they are moving between homes. You should continue to give them opportunities to talk about their feelings and ask questions.

Involve other adults

Speak to someone else they trust, such as an aunt or babysitter, and ask them to approach the topic with them. Make sure that they also know not to place blame and ask them to keep reassuring your child that their parents love them. Having someone outside of the situation to talk to can be important.

Other divorces

If they have any friends whose parents have gotten divorced, you may want to approach this. It happens for many reasons, and why one couple gets divorced is not the same reason that another does.