How to tell your children about your separation

Going through a separation can be an extremely distressing time where you are at your most vulnerable. This situation is only made more challenging when you have children whose emotional needs must be managed as they are eased through this momentous transition period.

A huge factor in how your children cope with your separation depends on how you and your partner go about telling them in the first instance.

It is very important that prior to telling your children, you are in control of your own emotions. Generally, how your children react to your separation will be a reflection of your own behaviour. If you become depressed, angry or bitter, they too will mimic similar behaviours or become sad, insecure or angry and will have a far more difficult time processing your separation. Therefore, first and foremost, you must take care of yourself. Ensure you are in control of your own emotions before imparting the news to your children. If you need further assistance with your psychological wellbeing, please contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers and we can refer you to a psychologist.

Where possible, break the news to your children with your partner. This way, you can both present a united front of composure and reassurance, and demonstrate to your children that no matter what, you are both still their parents and will always love them. To do this, both of you would need to commit to a step by step script on who is to say what to the children. You should agree on what language you will use and who and how their questions are to be answered.

Where your children are more receptive to a discussion, you should try and include the following concepts:

1.    Reassure your children that no matter what, you and your partner will both always love them.

2.    State that no matter what, as parents you will always be there for them and love them even when you are no longer living together.

3.    Acknowledge that this has been an extremely difficult decision and that it will take time for everyone to adjust to their parents not living together.

4.    With older children, you may wish to discuss the complexities of relationships and that sometimes you may like someone, however for you both to be happy, you can no longer live together.

5.    Acknowledge you both realise it is probably not easy for them to understand what has happened.

6.    Make it clear to your children that they are not to blame. When doing this, it is important that you also explain that there is nothing they can do to change the situation.

7.    Make sure you never lay blame on your partner and avoid negative statements.

If you need help drafting what you and your partner are going to say to your children, please contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers for assistance creating a personalised script.

Your children may have questions about what is going to happen, so it is important that you and your partner have already discussed living arrangements, contact, Christmas, holidays etc. If you haven’t worked out all of the details, you must give your children an indication of what is happening in the short term.

Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers can assist you with deciding the details of your living arrangements in the short term and long term. There expertise and ability to factor in nearly all eventualities into your arrangement will help you provide your children with positive reassurance that everything is going to be okay.

It can also help to tell your children that whilst they may feel very sad about the separation, there will be good things to come out of it as well.

Try and be prepared for a range of different reactions, whether they are immediate or delayed. Your role is to guide them through their emotional process, so it is also important to avoid getting angry or upset. Further, where your child is older avoid, making them your confidante or friend.

It is important to note that your child will only ask questions with answers that they feel equipped to process. Try not to overshare and never tell your children more than they are able to understand.

The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation, you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers for legal advice. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 31 August 2018.  We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.

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