Although you likely tried to keep your marital or relationship problems private, when your relationship or marriage ends, your entire family is going to be impacted. This is especially true if there are children involved.
For a lot of children, the end of the relationship between their parents is scary, confusing, and painful. Naturally, they will also have questions. While it may be tempting to tell your children as little as possible or to sugarcoat the truth, this is a mistake. Children need stability and reassurance at this time, and when nothing is really explained to them, it can leave them feeling insecure and afraid. Check out the common questions children ask when their parents’ relationship ends so you are prepared.
Why Are You Not Staying Together?
This question is an especially painful one in most cases, but you need to give a clear answer here. If you don’t, your child may think they had something to do with it. Many children blame themselves after their parents split, and it can have serious emotional consequences for them down the road. They need to know and believe that you and your co-parent split up for reasons that have nothing to do with them.
It’s best to decide on an answer here with your spouse, and you will need to keep your child’s age in mind. Older children can understand more than younger children. You and your spouse should give the child the same answer, ideally together as a united front; otherwise, the child may not think the answer is honest or that you are hiding something from them. Whatever you decide to tell your child, don’t forget to emphasize that it has nothing to do with them or you or your co-parent’s love for them.
Are You Going to Get Back Together?
Just about any child may ask this, and it’s especially common if you experienced rough patches with your spouse or partner before but ended up getting back together once the storm passed. Do not give your children false hope. Be very honest and tell them that you are not planning on getting back together this time. If you leave any door open that leads your child to believe you and their co-parent may get back together, they may cling to that instead of trying to move forward and adjust to their new life.
How Long Will All This Take?
When things just aren’t certain, a child may wonder when they can rely on the solid routine of their life again. While you are handling the details of the split, where you will live, and how you will divide assets and debts, your child is wondering when they will be able to relax again.
As with the other questions, it’s important to be honest here and maintain your child’s trust. If you don’t have an estimated timeline yet, let them know you can’t answer this just yet because you don’t know. Some parents will wait to tell their children until they have a better idea of the timing and how things will go.
If you’re really struggling to talk to your kids about what is happening, don’t hesitate to consult with a therapist. They can advise you on what to say–and what not to say–and give you tips on how to handle your children’s questions.
Last but certainly not least, contact a family law attorney for help with your custody or divorce case. An attorney will explain your options and guide you throughout the process so you’re not trying to handle all of this on your own.