Communicating with Children
The very worst thing that you can do when separating is to pretend to your children that nothing is wrong. It may seem easier for you to make up a lie or flimsy excuse as to why their parent is suddenly living elsewhere. Children of all ages can sense when something is wrong and it will only make an already insecure child even more anxious with emotional difficulties to overcome then or later in life.
The important thing to remember is to see things through their eyes.
How then to communicate the sensitive subject of your separation from their other parent?
Telling the truth about the separation is very important as children need to feel they can trust you. However, this must be age appropriate and care must be taken not to over-share. They do not need to hear the intimate details of adult behaviour nor how hateful the other parent is. There may well be good reasons as to why you consider your partner the scum of the earth but it would be selfish to voice these to a child who after all, loves both parents. For this reason, it would be cruel to make the child takes sides.
Children need a united front to feel safe and both parents to act calmly towards each other in their presence. When they are older, children can make up their own minds as to the rights and wrongs of their parents.
So, the idea is to work together to reassure your children that you love them and always will. Youngsters under the age of eight often blame themselves for the separation and may try to act in such a way as to keep their parents together. Tell them lovingly that they have done nothing wrong and it’s not their fault that mummy and daddy are no longer happy together.
Explain in a simple way that one of you will be living in a different house but that you will both still care just as much as always about their welfare. Assure them that they will be equally welcome in both houses and that you will always come together to help them if needed. See the areas we cover
There may be different rules in your ex partner’s house and the children need to know what is expected of them. There may be a degree of rebellion but that is part of the upset they feel about the change in circumstances. Some children may even welcome their parents’ separation as at least the arguments have stopped. So long as they are treated with honesty, sensitivity and love it will be easier for them to accept the new circumstances in time.
Do make it clear that you are open to their questions and above all give them the gift of your time .
At such a traumatic time the whole family could benefit from the support of mediation. If you feel it could help don’t hesitate to reach out for this assistance. Do you need a MIAM?