- It is crucial to make your children understand that separation is a grown-up decision and that they have nothing to do with it.
- It is just as important to make your children understand that the separation has not changed your love for them nor will it ever!
When to tell them
As long as you are not sure about separating, it is better to keep this information to yourself. Otherwise, children can feel very insecure in not knowing what is going to happen: will the parents separate or not? Children may try just about everything to make their parents reconcile, and could feel guilty or very sad if the parents divorce anyways.
Even if it is obvious that a 2-year-old won’t understand things in the same way a 10-year-old will, it is much better to tell all your children at the same time.
Children don’t need to know the reasons or motivations that have led to your separation, but they need to know a minimum to understand that they are not responsible for it.
For example, explain to them that you are both unhappy with each other and that things wouldn’t go smoothly at home if you didn’t separate. It is not enjoyable to live in the same house when you don’t love each other anymore and when you are always fighting.
Children sometimes believe that if you separate, you might want to divorce them one day. Be clear: love may change over time, but you cannot divorce your parents, children or brothers and sisters. “Your mother will always be your mother, and your father will always be your father. That will never change.”
Children also need to know that both parents will continue to take care of them, that they will see and spend time with each parent frequently, and that their well-being is still their parents’ main priority.
Avoid maintaining the hope of a reconciliation under the pretext of sparing your children more pain. Most children hope, for years, that their parents will get back together.
- Beware of reactions that seem “too good”. Some children tend to comfort mom and dad and don’t allow themselves to show sadness.
- Allow yourself to show your sadness. Children can feel your emotions, and pretending that everything is fine won’t work. However, make sure that the children know that you are not sad because of them.
- Children and parents need to mourn the divorce. Give your children the chance to express themselves regularly by speaking about separation, but don’t force them to talk about it.
- Remind your children that they can talk about it and ask questions as often as they want.