Ten Tips around communication with your children during separation/divorce
Read on if you want to look back in years to come and know you did all you could to make this transition in your children’s life as painless as practically possible. Look back and say I was the best parent I could be at the time!
1. Telling them you are separating.
Do not wait until you are separated to tell the children. Ideally, both parents should sit down together with your children and calmly and lovingly explain to them (no matter what ages they are) that mummy and daddy cannot live together any more in the same house. Reinforce that they will still see each of you all the time and you want them to remember that you both love them. Mostly, kids just need to know they are loved. They do not need to see the fighting or the negative comments. Walk them through how their weeks are going to look with each parent, and let them know they can talk to either of you any time on the phone or skype. Every separation is different but if you can both be mature adults who make the best decisions possible for your children first and foremost then you will all attune to this new way of being.
2. Remind them it’s not their fault.
Many children feel responsible in some way for their parent’s relationship problems or separation. They need reassurance, again and again, that the problem is not about them – even if you’ve been fighting about parenting issues. Assure them it’s not their behaviour that caused your conflict – and there is nothing they can do to make things different. You can say something like, “Mum and Dad have been having problems. We don’t agree about some things and this creates arguments and it’s not fair on you. So, we have to make some changes, but none of this is your fault and never was. We still both love you very much.”
3. Don’t put your kids in the middle.
Do not communicate via the children; do not bad mouth the other parent or extended family in front of the children. Do not communicate with the children in and around the legal ins and outs of your separation/divorce. Children should not be involved in any of this. They need stability both physically and emotionally. If you need a sounding board call a friend and catch up when the kids are not around, or book a session with your divorce coach to get things off your chest.
4. Parenting plan.
Try and put this in place together before you even separate, so you are both on the same page with expectations about how you are both going to co-parent and do what is best for your children. Without this you will continually disagree and cause angst for both yourselves and your children going forward. The sooner you have a clear plan on what life will look like co-parenting your beloved children the sooner you will harmoniously and successfully co-parent single. It’s tough work on your own, so make it easier on yourself from the “get go” and work on your own personalised plan with your divorce coach. If you cannot do this in the early days, it could all turn to custard and you will find yourself spending a lot of time and money with lawyers and mediator’s later or worse, in court fighting and causing even more of a breakdown in communication going forward. Remember that other parent is still going to be in your life for some time when you have children together, so put your big person pants on and be the better person. If you are having trouble doing this, call your divorce coach who can help you work on your ideal parenting plan or click here => parenting plan document to purchase a draft plan to work on with your co-parent. It’s time to let the past be the past and focus on creating a better future for you and your children
5. Managing finances.
Before separating, and quite possible before going to your lawyers, talk about the financial aspect of separation. What will it look like for your children, who will be paying for what? Can you afford to continue to send them to the same school, after school activities, sports etc. Manage everyone’s expectations around this now so there are no disagreements later on and your children are not bitterly disappointed. Manage their expectation of what they too might have to give up now that mum and dad are separated and finances are tighter. They will be ok so long as you prepare them by talking about it with them, together! Don’t bad mouth the other parent and say mum/dad won’t pay for it so you are not having it any more…. That’s not fair on anyone.
6. Create a united front.
No matter how you feel about each other, when it comes to your children, put your differences aside and show the children you are both on the same page when it comes to parenting them. For younger kids this gives them a sense of normality and helps them adjust to the new way of living quicker, and for older kids it makes them feel more comfortable to be in either parents’ company without feeling on edge or worrying about what they should or shouldn’t say. A united front also pertains to house rules…….
7. House Rules.
These should be a similar as possible in both homes so the children again have a sense of normality as well as knowing they cannot get away with certain things in one house and not the other. Otherwise kids get smart and use it against you both. They need boundaries and rules in both houses. So show them you are both a united front on this very early on. A great tip is for both parents to have a chalk/white board and sit down with the kids all together and agree on rules and duplicate rules onto each board for each home. IE. No Wi-Fi after 8pm, hand all devices in at 8pm, bed times at …, Tidy your rooms, homework before play time, talk respectfully to your siblings and each parent… and so on. This can also be put in the parenting plan if needs be.
8. Successful communication.
Working through the challenges of creating successful communication with your ex is a goal that must be worked on continuously. Keep your children in mind before making any decisions related to their well-being and you will stay on course.
Because you and your ex-spouse will be parenting your children for many years to come, it makes sense to start off in the best possible way. The first step is to develop a respectful relationship with your ex. Remember that is your child’s other parent who they love. Treat your ex-spouse with that level of awareness and dignity in all your communication and they are more likely to return the same level of respect to you. Changes may not happen overnight. But trust me, with patience and persistence things can and will improve. Yes, it’s SUPER hard at first but as time goes by and the waters cool and calm it does become easier. Be the first to be the better parent! Hold your head up high knowing you were the initiator of good parenting behaviour. It’s about the children – remember! If you are finding this quite challenging at this time contact your divorce coach and work on some new strategies on how to communicate better with your ex.
9. Mental health.
Taking care of your own mental wellbeing is of utmost importance when you become a single parent. There are hard hard days and you will be of no use to your children unless you take care of yourself first and foremost. Seek professional help where necessary or find some mindful mediation or excerpts to read to help you grow and build resilience’s, take a yoga class, have a massage. Notice if your children are also not going great with their own mental wellbeing at this time and get them the help they might need to get through the transition of living between two homes. Ask your GP or divorce coach for a referral. Read my blog on Forgiveness it may help you a move on a little faster yourself too.
10. Set up a google calendar or paper diary each.
Highlighting when each parent has the children and what the children’s extracurricular activities are on when they are with each parent. So you can set up reminder and the children don’t miss out. And also so that the kids can look at it week to week and know where they are going to be, they get stressed not knowing in advance, so stick to your agreed days and times. Don’t let anyone down as at the end of the day you are mostly letting your children down. Be on time for all pickups and drop offs and communicate in advance if there are hold up’s. Kids get so disappointed if they are continually being let down. With continuality and unbroken promises your children with adjust to this new way of life much much easier.
– Another great tool to help a large family keep on track on an app, of kids activities, expenses, messages between family members and much more is ourfamilywizard.com – NB this is US$.
11. This is a bonus tip.
Which I really hope none of you need in the 1st few months of separating…. Give yourself and your children time to adjust to this new way of life before dating. Give yourself time to heal, grieve and figure out who you really are again and what you really want in a future partner, it’s not a race, take your time and be true to yourself and your children.
Kimberlee Sweeney, CDC Certified Divorce Coach®
Kimberlee Sweeney, a Separation, Divorce & Relationship Coach helping people work on their relationships one way or the other, whether choosing to stay or leave, guiding them through how to separate with dignity & less stress, where possible. I trained in collaborative practice NZ, to work alongside other divorce experts, such as lawyers, mediators and financial experts to support my clients in all aspects of their divorce.
I have been an entrepreneur for over 30yrs+. I have discovered in time I have a of natural talent for understanding, empathising with clients as well as leading the way to showing others how to put a positive spin on all aspects of their lives and be their best selves in the process.
I completed one of America’s best divorce coaching programs, graduated as a CDC Certified Divorce Coach. Originally one of the very 1st CDC Certified Divorce Coaches in NZ in 2015 & have since also completed Gottman Relationship Therapy Coaching & Imago Communication courses for those wanting to work on their relationships or improve communication, along with Collaborative Practice Training NZ. I enjoy all aspects of my coaching practice and I gain a lot of satisfaction seeing my clients survive and thrive in Divorce and in their relationships overall. My passion is doing what is best for the kids and helping clients get a solid co-parenting agreement in place.
* Previously published at: https://www.degreesofseparation.co.nz/blog/how-to-support-your-children-during-your-separation