When parents separate, especially in circumstances when the separation was not a mutual decision, communication can break down. As a mediator, I am often asked for guidance on ways in which one or both parents can talk to their children about separation. Generally, when there is a high level of conflict between the parents, the children may find it more difficult to cope with their parents separation. It is therefore, imperative for the children to hear their parents communicate with each other in a constructive way. If you are newly separated, here are some of my top tips:
- Discuss with the other parent the best time, way and place to tell the children about your separation. Ideally both parents would sit down with the children together, somewhere comfortable, with few distractions. Some parents choose to have the conversation in a common area of the house, for example the living room or kitchen, this allows your children to retreat to their bedroom if they want to.
- If you and your partner have been arguing in the family home or your children have seen you cry or get angry, the chances are that the children already have an inkling. Consider opening 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.”
- Ensure that you reassure the children that you love them and that it is not their fault.
- Think about what questions the children may have and ensure you maintain an open dialogue with them. If you reassure them that they can talk to you about how they are feeling at any time, it may help to make them feel more secure. Encourage them to talk to you and ask questions, remember it is ok to not have all the answers right now.
- Try to avoid placing blame on the other parent and keep the dialogue positive. Focus on telling the children about what might change in the future and what they can expect to happen, who will drop them off and pick them up from school, tell them if they will still be able to do 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 with 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, then telephone me for a free no obligation chat on 07510 711453 or via my contact page.