How do you tell your kids that your break up is about to happen to them?
It's one thing to decide to separate. It's quite another to tell your kids. You imagine how they'll feel and what they'll think of you. You fear that you'll ruin their lives, that your relationship with them will never recover.
You love your kids and you want to be sure they know that. Sometimes it feels like the way to get that across is to make clear that the break up wasn't your fault. The desire to have the kids understand your perspective can be almost overwhelming.
But that's your desire. It's not what your kids want. In clearing yourself you risk pointing the finger elsewhere. What if their loyalty to both parents leads them to blame themselves?
However hurt or angry you feel about the break up of your relationship, those feelings are between you and your partner. When you face the kids, do it as parents. Keep your adult disputes separate. Focus on continuing to give your kids the love and nurturing parents provide.
Telling them together is good if you can do this peaceably. It shows you are still a dependable unit as parents. Own the conflict as belonging to both of you. "We have trouble getting along. It's our problem." If you get into blame, you put pressure on the kids to take sides. They want to love you both.
Be clear that you are responsible for this, not them. It's not because of you or anything you do. It's between us." This is your decision. Your kids aren't in charge of it and they can't change it.
Present your separation as a way to deal with the problem. "We've decided to live apart. We think that will be better than arguing and hurting each other." If you can't fix the problem, then managing the tension between you could be a relief.
You don't have to pretend that you're happy. Your strong feelings are probably obvious. Tell the kids you both have people to support you, and make sure that you do. It's scary for kids to worry about their parents. They want to know that you're both in good enough shape to take care of them. That gives them hope that their world is changing rather than collapsing.
Let the kids know what the changes will be like. Tell them where they'll live, what time they'll spend with each of you, how connections with relatives and family friends will be maintained. Tell the kids that they can also get support and offer your help to find someone good to talk to.
Your choices will shape your kids' experience. Bitter recriminations make for a separation that's hard on everyone. Focusing on your own distress gets in the way of supporting your kids. Keeping your adult arguments between the adults and co-operating for all you're worth over parenting gives your kids a real chance of holding on to a family that works for them, how ever many houses it's members are living in.
If you would like help to co-operate to support your kids through your separation, contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or your local office which is listed in the telephone directory.