Going through a separation or divorce in your family is hard enough, then you have to try to work out how to tell your children. How do you tell your children that you’re separating?
Children develop different ideas as to why their parents are separating and may blame themselves. It’s important to tell the children it’s not their fault – even if they haven’t verbalised it. You may need to say this a few times. They may not mention it because it’s a shameful feeling – so they will keep it very well hidden.
Try to keep the conversation
- Non-blaming of the other parent
- Tell the children it’s not their fault.
Try to avoid
- Playing blame on the other parents in front of the children.
- Don’t say things like mum/dads had an affair
- Don’t need to tell them the reasons why
3 points that are essential for telling children about parents separating
- Keeping the language unified – we still love you.
- Telling them that even though you may not love each other (the other parent) anymore, we can never stop loving you.
- It’s not your fault
What to look out for in your child.
Sometimes they may behave in a way that’s different from usual, avoiding things they never avoided, having trouble at school. Some may be very well behaved because they don’t want to upset the parents. Parents might think they’re doing really well, sometimes they’re trying to protect each parent and internalise the pain. If you notice something out of the ordinary chose a time and place that’s comfortable for you both and mentioned the things you’ve noticed. “I’ve noticed that ….(you have been avoiding school, talking to this friend, etc).’
Children can find it difficult to name their feelings – so giving them that open-ended question so they are invited to talk about it. Remind them you love them, it’s not their fault and you will always be there for them.’ Let them voice their concerns and ask questions.
If they come to you with questions, you can say simple things like ‘ we are working on it’ take the pressure and responsibility off them. As parents, it’s ok to say ‘’we’re finding it very confusing too but we’re working on it.’’
It’s ok to be scared and anxious during this difficult time. Make sure to take care of yourself too. If you need some additional support you can go to your GP and discuss a referral to a mental health specialist. Family therapy can also be helpful to support you to have some of those difficult conversations and find ways to better support each other and resolve conflict.
https://mensline.org.au/ Call 1300 78 99 78
MensLine Australia is a telephone and online counselling service for men with family and relationship concerns.
https://www.panda.org.au/ Call 1300 726 306 PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood.
This podcast was written following an interview conducted on the Inside Social Work podcast interview Verity Best and Josette Gardiner from focus counselling
To listen to the episode check out the Inside Social Work podcast page https://insidesocialwork.com/episode4/