Telling a child that his or her parents are separating is a daunting task. No matter how amicable the split was, or how mature your child is, it will be a hard conversation to have. These tips will help the conversation go more smoothly.
Tip #1: Do it together
No matter how tense things may between you and your soon to be ex-spouse, it is important that you both be there for the conversation. Put the hostilities aside for the day and think of your child. If only one parent shows up for this important talk, your child may interpret it as that the other parent no longer loves them, or worry that they did something wrong. Presenting a united front is an essential aspect of co-parenting, so start strong from the very beginning.
Tip #2: Tell the truth
Yes, it will need to be a kid-friendly version, but your kids deserve to know the reason behind the split. Keep it simple, but be honest. Learning that you and your partner no longer love each other enough to be together may cause your child to think that your love for them could also eventually disappear. Make it clear to your child, both during and after the conversation, that you love them, and even if you and your spouse aren’t together anymore, you still care about them.
Tip #3: Answer questions
Be prepared to answer and explain many logistical questions. Even if your kid doesn’t ask about it right away, they will eventually want to know. This can be anything from “Where will I live now” to “Who will drive me to school”. Coming to the conversation with an established schedule can help you answer those questions. A resource such as WeParent can help make that schedule into an easily accessible and mutual calendar that can be shared so that you are all on the same page.
Tip #4: Keep checking in
After the conversation is done, make sure to pay attention to how your child is coping. If they are acting out, or having troubles at school, check in with them. If things get especially bad, don’t be afraid to see a family counselor to help your family better adjust to the change. Make sure to tell them that not only you, but also your ex-spouse still love them, that you will continue to be a part of their life, and that in no way is the separation their fault.
It’s going to be a long road, but if you consistently put your child first, things will go far smoother.