“Do I have to choose where to live?”
These are the type of questions you DON’T want your kids asking you.
This type of question from my perspective (a mother’s), reflects the potential anxiety your kids maybe under.
So, let me tell you about my situation and how you should NOT tell your kids that you are separating from your Mr/Ms Ex.
Chances are that you and your soon-to-be Mr/Ms Ex have decided to separate or just have time apart to figure things out which also usually means that you are both potentially “processing” what this means for YOU, let alone trying to figure out what it means for your current family unit.
The days/months/years proceeding this moment where you break the news to your kids may have been volatile or, in some cases, quite amicable.
So, let’s go back a little to my situation when we broke the news (even as I type this, my heart feels pain and sadness). Let me say that the day we told our kids was one that was the most horrible and emotional. So, I am hoping that by explaining our scenario you may take on my learnings and perhaps diffuse (or even remove) the “horrible”, I don’t think anything will ease the “emotional” part, sadly.
My peeps were 3 and 6 years old. We sat them down as a family in our family home on the apprehensive principle (from my Mr Ex) that we would tell the kids the truth or at least a muted, age-appropriate version of it.
Our family life proceeding this moment, had been calm with minimal conflict (and I thought relatively happy in my mind). It was peaceful. Coming to terms with peace to separation would have been hard to understand.
My ex started to tell them because see, it was because of his actions that we got to this place, so he started to tell them that he had done things and felt that he needed to move out to figure things out …EXCEPT that mid-way, he started crying and ran out of the room!
Yes. I was left with two very emotional kids, explaining our situation by MYSELF. So, my point is: this is how NOT to tell the kids you are separating!
10 tips on how to tell kids you are separating
Based on my predicament and learnings, here are some tips on how to break the news to your kids from a mum who has been there:
1. Plan ahead
Attempt being on the same page with your soon to be Mr/Ms Ex about when, where and how.
Prepare ahead for potential questions the kids may ask you. Prepare to answer questions about the future, ie. where will I live? With who?
2. Understand the day will be remembered
This day may be etched in their little minds. Keeping this perspective may help in the delivery.
3. Attempt to keep your VIBE child-centered
This may help diffuse all potential contempt and animosity you may feel towards your ex.
4. Welcome feedback or input by your kids
During the conversation, encourage them to express their feelings.
5. Age-appropriate explanations
With my kids, we kept it pretty simple as they were young and their attention span was also quite short.
6. Set up distractions
Post breaking the news, I set up play dates and surrounded them with family (which was pretty normal for them). This really provided comfort.
7. Keep it simple
Similar to number 5, keeping things simple with plenty of hugs helped!
8. Be HONEST
They will replay all you say periodically as they process it (least mine did), so be honest (relative to their age).
9. Keep the current routine
OK, as much as humanely possible! This seemed to help support and comfort their little vibe. I made every attempt to continue the same weekly routine as we had previously, this seemed to help a lot!
10. Do NOT run out of the room!
Finally, this day will be remembered! It is a tough time for all of you. So, plan ahead and provide the re-assurance they will need with endless amounts of HUGS and LOVE!