No matter how hard you try, children usually pick up on the negative feelings expressed by parents during their separation. This can make your child feel anxious or distressed. It is important that you listen to your child to ease as much of their worry as possible.
Before you sit down with your child, it is important to acknowledge the negative feelings you have towards your partner, and set them aside. This way you can understand your child’s feelings better and respond in the best way for them.
Here are three easy steps to help your child feel as comfortable as possible when talking about your separation:
Talking to your child about your ex-partner, before you understand how you feel, can be counter-productive. One way you can process your feelings is by writing them down, which can help you feel more in control.
Another way could be having a conversation with a friend, family member, or professional. Remember that having negative feelings is normal, but you don’t want to influence the way your child thinks about their mum or dad.
Staying calm is one of the most important things to remember when talking to your child. You don’t want them to feel like they can’t talk to you, or that they are part of the problem.
Keeping your shoulders relaxed and breathing deeply can help. Keep in mind that your child might have a different viewpoint to you, and that you need to respect this.
If they say something you don’t expect, try to react as little as possible, as responding negatively can stop them from talking about their worries or problems in the future.
Try and let them talk as much as possible and help them by asking questions in response.
Try to keep questions as neutral as possible. E.g. “Would you like to spend equal time with mummy and daddy?”, rather than, “You’d rather spend more time with me, wouldn’t you?”
The final step is to end the conversation by reassuring your child. It is good to prepare what to say in advance, so that you don’t promise something you can’t deliver.
Try to reassure them on things that you know will stay the same. For example, if they are worried that they might have to change school, but you know they won’t have to, use this as a reassurance.
However, if spending lots of family time with both parents isn’t a possibility, don’t give them false hope.