Speaking with your children together in advance about separation establishes a healthy pattern of communication with your children. Although what and how you say things varies by age, there are some central things that children always want to know.
Talking with children about separation won't be pleasant to say the least. Children between ages 8-13 will challenge you and will be upset. Children older may have already seen it coming. This doesn’t mean they won’t be hurt but may suppress those
feelings and even share with others outside your family unit. Children younger will be the most unpredictable—their needs are to be safe, secure and with little or no conflict. An easy soft approach is best that helps understand primarily that a move is in the works.
Here are ideas to help you plan your discussion
• Place yourselves in an open environment with no obstructions between you and children
• Identify facts, points about discussion prior to sitting with children
• Gentle, concise and succinct points about an impending move
• Respectful conversation with and towards other parent
• Reassure nothing changes but the living arrangements
• No details about separation or eventual divorce
• Allow time for questions
• Accept and expect anger, tears, fears, hugs and encourage conversation
• Your ultimate goal is to help them feel secure and safe about future
Here are topics that may pop up during your meeting
• What happened that precipitated this decision
• When will changes occur
• Why you are making this decision
• If the separation is going to lead to divorce
• Where will they live—discussions on sharing homes and transitioning
• If it is OK for them to continue loving each of you.
• If you both will stop the conflict or fighting
• How this will impact friends and their favorite sports or other activities.
• Where one parent will be while they are with the other parent
Four effective ways to communicate in the days following
1) Make conscious decisions to answer all questions intelligently and patiently. Their questions may raise more questions in your mind, but that’s not as important as their own insight, awareness, and perspective on the issues. Further, I personally relate with each of my children differently and with individuality because they are mutually exclusive in their own right. Children have their own ways of comprehending things.
2) Be there when they reach out. Keep an open rapport. If you have moved out, help them identify with your new position in their life. Single parenting or co-parenting presents unclear family dynamics initially. If my kids needed me, I wanted to be the one who raised my arms, palms wide open, to connect. Show you too can be there when needed.
3) Communicate frequently. I found that my children gained confidence in us if I communicated our plans and events to them directly. I tried to remain consistent and predictable in my approach. If I was travelling, couldn’t easily be accessible to them, or wouldn’t be able to keep a planned date, I expressed that well in advance. If I was out of town, I called and spoke directly with my little one.
4) Nothing else changes. Reassuring and reaffirming only your living arrangements change helps. Some children get keen ideas their mom and dad will reunite—especially if they see you both together often. You can still state you love and respect their mom or dad but just not the same way anymore. That it’s a very tough decision and it’s sad, but this very delicate and sensitive issue is only a small snag in a much bigger picture—your role and responsibilities don’t change. Things will eventually improve.
Communicating effectively with your children during this significant time in your lives is critical. Working through the new persistent challenges may create displeasure, but identifying with our children’s issues is priority. Behavior changes are a sure sign your attention is required. Developing a new platform and understanding in your relationship will help them succeed. Their future depends on you.
Bruce Buccio resides in Colorado, USA, is a divorced single dad, Author of "Parenting After Divorce: Rebuilding Your Life And Reaffirming the Relationships that Matter (2013)," court appointed child advocate and expert helping families professionally in parenting, family, relationship, personal growth and life changes. Today, he writes primarily inspired by experiences raising his children, but also writes about inspiration, growth, and love.
Copyright © 2013 Bruce Buccio