It’s important to tell your children that you and your partner will be separating as early as possible so they have more time to adjust to the change. Here is a suggested plan to help you talk to your children about separation.
- Decide when, where and how you are going to tell the kids. Ideally, also decide ahead of time if you will tell the kids together or separately. Even if you don't have all the answers about what will happen next or how things will work, it's important to tell children what's going on before anything changes – and especially before one parent moves out. Sometimes it's hard when there's tension between parents, but this conversation can be easier to have if everyone is present. Parents can back each other up so children can see that both parents will support them even though their family structure is changing.
- Explain clearly, and in an age appropriate way, that you and your partner won't be together anymore. Try not to blame the other parent or say bad things about them. Calmly explain that you won't be living together as a family anymore and how things will work in the future. Reassure children that even though you won't live together as a family, both parents still care about them and love them very much.
- Give children the opportunity to ask questions. Children often want to know what it means for them and how things will be different. They might ask how they will get to school, whether or not they can bring things when they go to the other parent's new house and what will happen to family pets. Some children will want to know why their parents are separating or getting divorced. If this is the case, a calm, matter-of-fact response is often best. Before you talk to your children, consider planning how you will answer these sorts of questions.
And don’t forget to manage your own stress. Strong feelings and mood swings are part of a normal reaction when you separate, so allow yourself time to come to terms with feelings of grief and loss.
You may like to read more about supporting children's mental health when parents separate.