If you and your partner have decided to separate, no matter how amicably, it’s bound to be an upsetting time for everyone in the household. This is especially true if you have children together. We have years of experience in helping separating families and, while we know some upset is inevitable, here are some ways you can make separation easier for children.
1. Take time to talk
No matter how difficult the conversation is, it’s important to sit down with your child and explain what is going to happen and why. You don’t need to go into details, but be as honest and clear as possible. If you have more than one child, speak to them together and, if possible, make sure you and your partner are both present.
Your children will have questions. Take the time to answer them honestly and keep the conversation positive. Yes, things are going to change, but you’re still a family and you still love them.
As the weeks go by, children will have more thoughts and questions. It’s a good idea to arrange a regular time to talk – after dinner once or twice a week perhaps – so you can listen to their worries and answer any questions.
2. Don’t ignore feelings
Children are likely to notice their parents are upset, angry or sad. While it’s easy to pretend everything is okay, it’s important you acknowledge your feelings, and let your children know it isn’t their fault.
You also need to be aware of the emotions your children will experience and address them, not ignore them. Simple conversations like “I can see you’re sad mummy isn’t here, but don’t worry, you’ll see her tomorrow” can help to reassure them.
3. Keep your routines
With so much changing, keeping children in an established routine is an important way to make them feel secure. Whatever your arrangements with your partner, agree on mealtimes, bedtimes, bath times etc. so your children feel a sense of normality.
4. Don’t point score
It’s an easy trap separating parents can fall into: trying to best one another to compete for their children’s affection. Whether by spoiling them with treats, or even bad-mouthing the other parent, this can have a negative impact on children. They might become confused and may feel they’re expected to take sides.
Also, don’t use your children as messengers between you and your partner after separation. It isn’t fair on them and it’s better if they can see you speak to one another civilly.
5. Speak to their school or nursery
Take time to explain the situation to other people in your children’s life. Teachers or nursery workers may notice a change in their behaviour and it’s best if they are aware of what’s happening at home so they are prepared to deal with it.
6. Agree on the big stuff
While it’s unlikely you and your partner will agree on all elements of parenting, some of the big decisions regarding your children’s future need to be taken together. Things like education, when and how to discipline, and dealing with emotional problems should be discussed so you and your partner are on the same page and your children aren’t given mixed messages.
7. Make time for fun
While there will be some dark times for separating families, it’s really important you keep having fun together. If you and your partner are able to arrange for you to do this as a family it will reassure your children that not everything in their lives has changed and that they are still part of a loving family.
Our family law solicitors in Edinburgh and Glasgow have been helping and advising families in Scotland for over 100 years. We are a small family-run firm and our clients’ satisfaction is paramount to us. If you have any questions about divorce, separation or any other family law matter, please get in touch and we will be happy to talk to you.
You might also be interested to:
- Read more from Sue Anne about shared parenting: Back to School: Parental Responsibilities and Rights
- Read Senior Family Solicitor Caroline MacBeath’s blog about the initial steps towards separation: When Love Has Gone: Five Steps Towards Separation
- Look at Action for Children’s advice on how to make separation easier for children: articles about splitting up