I get asked a lot from separating parents on how to talk to their child and how they can best help their kids through the separation process. Below are 5 things you can do that will help them adjust a little more smoothly:
- Explain to your kids what is happening. The best way to do this is for both parents to talk to their kids together in a calm and civil way with both parents being respectful of the other.
- Let the child know when they are going to see, or stay with, their other parent so they aren’t surprised. Consistency and predictability is important. Kids like predictability and routine, it helps them feel safe and secure so help them adjust to their new situation by letting them know where they are going, when they will go, and when they will come back.
- Please don’t say bad things about the other parent and don’t let others do this in front of your kids. By saying negative things about their other parent they may feel that they have to choose between you both which can make it harder for them to adjust to the separation and can have negative mental health impacts later on.
- It’s normal that they miss their other parent so make it ok for them to let you know this. Have a plan in place so that if they do start to miss their other parent they can call them (text, face-time, etc.) or, if they aren’t available, they can draw them a picture or write them a story.
- Changes in family life can cause upset so there may be some increase in worry or behavioural changes while kids adjust to different routines and different homes. Something that may help is having a toy or object that they carry with them between homes and/or a set space for them to talk about their day. Questions over dinner or just before story time at bed can become part of the time the two of you spend together whilst allowing you to know what is going on in their inner world. Simple questions, depending on age, such as ‘What’s the funniest thing that happened today?’ ‘What’s the saddest or most worrying thing that happened today?’ and end on a happy thought, such as ‘What are you most looking forward to about tomorrow?’