It’s been five months since my husband and I separated. This is probably the first post I’ve written on the topic. I do have other posts that I wrote in the days and weeks following it. However, it’s not time to share them yet. I think for most parents, the most worrying aspect of this situation is telling the kids you are separating. I’m no expert but I have been through it recently. Like with most of my blog posts, I hope that by sharing my own experience on separation/how to tell your children, I can help someone.
Ric and I have been together since July 2009 and married since August 2013. Our son Lucas has just turned 6 (June) and our daughter is two and a half. We decided to separate on 1st February 2020 when Lucas was 5 and Sienna has just turned 2. She wasn’t our immediate concern. In my opinion, attempting to explain anything to her would fall on deaf ears as she wouldn’t understand. Lucas, however, was a different story. He needed to be told. He has to have the chance to ask questions. He’s a very resilient and adaptable little boy but that didn’t stop me worrying.
Luckily it went as well as can be expected. I thought I would share my top tips for telling your children you’re separating.
Tell them together
Children need to be the main focus in a separation. Everything you do must be about their wellbeing, so showing a united front is key. No matter what your personal feelings are to each other. Luckily Ric and I were on the same page with the separation which made things easier. We didn’t need to pretend. You are the adults and you have to set the standard. Telling them together shows them that you are still a team. You always will be for the sake of the children.
Keep it simple
They don’t need to know the ins and outs. They just need to know the basics and how it will affect them. We told Lucas that Daddy wouldn’t be living at this house. They would have two homes – one with mummy and one with Daddy. We explained that Mummy and Daddy would always be Mummy and Daddy. There was just no husband and wife anymore. We were going to be friends.
Let them ask questions
Not just immediately after you’ve told them either. Make it an open ended conversation that they can come back to. The chances are they will think about it and have questions later on. Lucas’ main question was an obvious one – why? We were honest. Mummy and Daddy weren’t getting on as well as we should and we wanted everyone to be happier.
Make it clear you still love them
Seems obvious but it’s worth saying. Just because Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to be together anymore doesn’t mean you love them any less. In fact, you could say it’s because you love them so much and want everyone to be happy.
Show emotion if you want to
I got upset when we told Lucas. I couldn’t help it. It was the right decision for so many reasons but it doesn’t mean it’s any less sad. I want both my children to know it’s okay to be upset and show emotion. I explained to Lucas that I was upset because it was sad but I knew that the future would be full of smiles.
Focus on the Positives
We tried to give Lucas reasons to be excited about the big change ahead of him. We told him about Ric’s new home. Ric showed him pictures and he was really excited to share a room with Sienna. We started talking about how he wanted his room and any sadness was forgotten. Children are a bit fickle like that – ha ha.
Timing is Key – Don’t confuse them
Although we decided to separate at the beginning of February, Ric didn’t move out till mid-February. He moved to his Dad’s until his new place was ready. It’s worth saying that I think we made the right decision in terms of timing. There was no point in saying anything while Ric was still living with us as nothing was different. It would have been confusing for them.
The day he moved to his Dad’s was the day we told him. There was no confusion as to where Daddy was and we weren’t lying to them. He knew where Daddy was and why he wasn’t here when he woke up. Ric worked most evenings so that was no different. I always made sure he knew when he was seeing him next. I still do this now. With lockdown, the kids have had more time with their Dad. It’s been fantastic to help them settle into having two homes.
It was once of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
The sense of relief when it was done was unbelievable. Lucas proved, yet again, what a fab little guy he is and was so chilled with it all.
Lucas mentioned he was sad that Daddy wouldn’t be living with us anymore when I put him to bed for two nights after we told him. I reassured him, gave him a hug and told him it was okay to feel that way. He would get used to the new way of life.
As I said at the beginning of this post, we didn’t have a conversation with Sienna. There was no point because she was too young and we knew she wouldn’t understand. She occasionally has a moment when we drop her off at either house, but she settles quickly. She’s already learnt to play us by asking for Mummy when Daddy tells her off and vice versa. Little monkey!
In a very difficult situation, I can’t ask for any more from my two smalls. They have outdone themselves and made us so proud with their adaptability.