The first minutes after a final break-up must surely be the hardest thing for a partner to do and when there are children involved, it is even harder. You don’t know where to begin. A break-up of a marriage is a catastrophic event and can have a devastating impact on children. A three-year-old might not know what is going on, but will experience the altered mood and behavior of his mother. He will also notice the absence of his father. He will ask questions. If his mother is upset and can’t answer his questions, he will fear that there will be no one to look after him and he will be alone. Worse, the child might blame himself for the break-up.
Ways to handle and reassure your children
1 Put your emotions on hold and talk to your children in private. Reassure them that their father loves them, and that they are not to blame.
2 Tell them that while their father has left the house, he has not left them. He will always be their father.
3 Tell them that they will see their father on weekends, if that is so, and perhaps also during the week. They can also call their father anytime they need to speak to him.
4 Don’t go into the mechanics of divorce and what it means, but explain that their father won’t be staying at the house anymore.
5 Don’t discuss their father with them in a negative way; you don’t want the kids to hate him.
6 If their father has an addiction problem, don’t discuss it.
7 Don’t get into the reasons why their father left. It is not their business and too much information for them.
8 Don’t take them into your confidence and tell them what their father has done. It is not a good idea to discuss private and intimate matters with them anyway, they will feel responsible.
9 Don’t tell them that they take after their father and are just like him; you will make them feel bad.
10 Don’t change your routine in the house. Kids are used to familiarity.
11 If you have had story-telling time an hour before bedtime, continue to do so.
12 Don’t make any child of yours the ‘man of the house’. The responsibility is too great.
To be sure, the first weeks of a separation are the hardest; not only for you, but for them. Spend extra time at night with them when you put them to bed and tell them that everything will be just as before, that their father loves them and will still come to all their activities. The care with which you guide and love your children through this trying time will make a big difference in their lives.