How to Tell Children that you are Separating
Telling your children that you are separating and having that first conversation with them is hard. Your children are likely to remember this conversation for the rest of their lives. It is a symbolic conversation which can set the tone of your future parenting relationship. When it is done well, it can demonstrate your commitment as parents to working cooperatively, putting the wishes, feelings and needs of your children first.
Parents want to get this first conversation right. But there is no right way to have this conversation: each family is different, and each child is different. In our recent podcast here, I spoke to Jo Harrison, FLiP’s in-house counsellor, about how to approach this first conversation. Here are the top tips from our conversation:
1. Think carefully about when to tell the children
Often one partner is ready to tell the children, but the other is still adjusting to the separation. It is important that you are both seen to be working cooperatively, so make sure that you are both ready and willing to have this conversation.
2. Think carefully about what you want to say
Think about the topics that you want to cover and focus on your role as a parent.
3. Choose your language carefully
The language that you use will be key. Don’t use language which will inflame the situation or upset the children. Be respectful towards each other and choose language which reassures the children and makes them feel safe and secure. This conversation is not a place for blame, snide comments, anger, sadness or bitterness between you as parents. Process these feelings away from the children.
4. Anticipate questions
Your children might ask where they will live and who they will live with, where they will go to school, whether they still see their friends and wider family members. You may not have all the answers but reassure the children that you will work together to sort out the best arrangements for them.
5. Where should you have this conversation?
Think together about where you will have this conversation – will you sit down at home, or is it better to go for a walk or raise it during a car journey?
6. Listen and follow up
Allow space for your children to ask questions and listen to their concerns. Then keep an eye on them and check in a week or so later to see how they are feeling.
7. Should you tell anyone else?
Think about notifying the school and/or the wider family so that they can provide additional support, if required.
Telling your children that you are separating for the first time can be a difficult particularly as it requires cooperation at what can be a tricky time for a separating couple. But if you focus on your role as parents, and on the needs and concerns of your children, you can do it well.
If you’d like to listen to the full podcast on How to Tell Children that you are Separating, click here.
To learn more about FLiP’s unique approach to divorce and separation, please contact us at E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 020 7420 5000.