In my experience as a family solicitor and mediator, I am often asked to provide guidance to a parent (or both parents in the mediation process) about ways in which they can talk to their children about separation. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules.
When parents separate, especially in circumstances when the separation was not a mutual decision, communication can break down. Generally, when the conflict level is high between the parents, children can find it more difficult to cope with their parents separation. Therefore, it is a crucial time for parents to continue to communicate with each other in a constructive way for the benefit of the children. If you are newly separated, consider these top tips:
- Discuss with the other parent when you tell the children about your separation. Ideally, both parents would sit down with the children in a comfortable place, with few distractions. Perhaps take the phone off the hook and switch off mobile phones and iPads. Some parents choose to have the conversation in a common living area, for example, the kitchen or lounge. Your children can then retreat to their bedroom if they want to.
- Consider whether the children already have an inkling? If you and your partner have been arguing in the family home or they have seen you cry or get angry, chances are that they have already picked up on it. You could open the conversation “So you may have heard Mummy and Daddy arguing?” or “Mummy and Daddy haven’t been getting along recently, and believe it is best to live apart“.
- Reassure the children that it is not their fault, and tell them that you both love them.
- Consider what questions the children may have. It’s okay not to have all the answers now. If you maintain an open dialogue with the children and reassure them that they can talk to you about how they are feeling anytime, then this can help them feel secure. Perhaps, encourage them to talk to you and ask them what they are thinking?
- Avoid blaming the other parent, and instead focus on telling the children about any changes in the future and what they can expect in the coming weeks. Who will do the school pick-ups and drop-offs? Will they still continue their hobbies?
The first conversation can be difficult, and often there’s no right time to have it. Remember, that this is the first of many conversations you will have the children, and so don’t feel the need to overload them with lots of information.
If you are struggling to talk to your partner or spouse, then consider using the mediation process. Mediation helps parents to establish a new working relationship, which places the needs of the children at the forefront of the discussions. Mediation empowers parents to take control and manage the separation in an amicable way. If you are interested in finding out more about family mediation, you can contact me via my contact page.