Telling your child about your separation will be one of the hardest conversations you will likely have in your entire life. You will remember it and so will your children, so it matters where, when and how you choose to share with them about your choice to separate.
Sometime beforehand, talk with your spouse and make a plan. Together you can predict questions and co-create your responses. This will provide a framework for you to work from.
The most important thing to remember is that you know your children better than anyone else. You will be able to consider their special needs, their unique ways to be soothed and their particular sensibilities.
Here are 3 tips to help guide your child through this change:
Carve out time to spend with them after you tell them, together with your spouse, whenever possible. This will help to smooth the transition between the news, and what happens after.
Field the questions that will inevitably come up, like ‘where will we live?’ ‘who else knows?’ ‘why is this happening?’ ‘will you still talk to each other?’ ‘why can’t you just figure out how to fall back in love?’ ‘was it something I did or said?’ ‘is there someone else in the picture?’ ‘I don’t want to go back and forth can I just live with Mom?’ ‘How long has this been in the works?’ Having some answers to these questions will help them to feel reassured and know that you have it under control.
Continue to parent as you would have before telling them. Resist the urge to try and falsely soothe them by being more lenient and letting them do things that otherwise would not have been ok before. Ensure that both parents are on the same page with this one to avoid one parent being “the bad guy.”
This will inevitably be a very challenging time for both you and your children, so being conscious of your own feelings, and theirs, will be crucial. You may not be able to predict how your children will respond, but being as supportive and patient with their process as possible will have a beneficial impact long-term.