You and your significant other have decided to end your relationship after a decade. Maybe you are married and planning a divorce. Maybe you never got married, but your cohabitation is simply coming to an end as you both move on with your lives.
Either way, what is important is not the end of that relationship, but your kids. You only care about your children and what this means for them. You know how difficult and jarring it can be. You know that they do not fully understand the complexities of adult relationships, and something like this is going to change their lives forever.
Below are a few key tips to help you talk it over with them:
1. Tell them about the living situation
Children value consistency and reliable schedules. They will want to know where they’re going to live and who will live with them. Be open about the new schedule and ask for their input. Remember that things you do not find important — what neighborhood they live in or what school they go to — may be incredibly important to the kids. Be sensitive to that.
2. Stress that you both love them
The only relationship changing is the one between you and your significant other. You still love the kids. You plan to spend time with them. You want their relationships with both of you to stay strong. Children need this love and support, no matter what living situation they have. Give it to them all the time.
3. Tell them they did not cause the break-up
Along with the above, stress that the kids did nothing wrong and did not cause you and your significant other to end the relationship. Many kids assume this and feel distraught and guilty. If you do not say anything one way or the other, there is still a serious mental and emotional risk. Tell them repeatedly that they did nothing wrong, and that you love them.
4. Talk about safety and security
We’re not talking about physical safety in most cases, but children need to feel safe and secure in their home life. Depending on their age, they may worry about things like having enough money, being able to afford a place to live, still seeing both of their parents and the like. Make sure they know that they will still be secure and that your focus is on not changing their lives as much as possible.
As you talk with your children, make sure you also take the time to look into your legal rights and options moving forward. Things to consider include child custody, child support, parenting plans and parental rights.