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“Dad, where are you going?”, I ask as he loads his things into a van. “Child of divorce,” someone says to me and I realize how sadness overcomes me. I’m seven years old when my parents split up. My friends take me in their arms and say, “It’ll be okay!”. But my world will never be the same again. I didn’t see my father for a long time, and in retrospect I don’t know why. Since then, he is no longer “Dad” to me, I call him by his first name. Over time, I have accepted that mom and dad no longer love each other. But this situation took a lot not only from me, but also from my parents.
How Do We Tell Our Child?
“Children, we need to talk to you about something,” is often the first sentence.
However, the age of the child also plays a role. After all, you talk differently to a three-year-old than to a sixteen-year-old. Older children are able to deal with a separation differently. Unlike young children, who can quickly succumb to the belief that it’s all their fault. It is important to prepare children for a breakup and try to ease their fears. Communicate to your child that you are not separating from them, but will continue to stand by their side as a parent. This creates the security your child needs.
Separate On A Partner Level
It is best to communicate the decision to separate together. For example, you can say, “We are going to separate, but as mother and father, we will both continue to be there for you!” If the child will stay with the mother, you can add that the father can visit at any time. Don’t make your child feel to blame for the separation, but don’t beat around the bush either. The separation is a fact. When your child is older, you can let him or her help decide where he or she would like to live and include his or her wishes in the new daily planning.
Life After The Separation
Continue to be reliable parents that your child can count on. Your child should always be the center of attention. If you are not yet able to deal adequately with the new situation, seek outside help. Maintain respect for the other parent and model this for your child. Your child is not only guided by your words, but also by your actions. So it is of no use to say: “You can go to your father/mother”, if at the same time they nonverbally signal the opposite.
Carry Out Their Conflicts Among Themselves
Keep your child out of their personal conflicts and avoid situations where they are expected to take sides against one of you.
If the child lives primarily with you, encourage them to interact with the other parent. You do not have to pretend harmony that no longer exists. Make it clear to your child that you have a different relationship with the other parent than he or she does, and therefore different feelings. The important thing is that the child is free to follow his or her feelings and act accordingly. Both sides must accept and respect their different feelings.
I Have A New Partner – And Now?
You should not demand from your child to accept the new partner immediately. The child already has a father/mother who cannot be replaced by anyone. Give your child the time they need to adjust to the new relationship. It is possible that their new partner will be rejected by the child at first. This can be very hurtful at first, but they should not take it personally. The rejection is not necessarily for the person. It may result from loyalty to the other parent and a desire for the original family. Your child has already “lost” one parent and is now seeking to bond with the remaining one. This bond should not be jeopardized by anyone.
How Will My Child Cope?
Divorces are no longer an exception nowadays, but this does not inhibit the fear that one’s parents might separate. After all, one knows so many children of divorce. It’s not a direct fear, but a thought that accompanies you when your parents fight again. Even small children notice more than you think. It’s not for nothing that small children sometimes start crying when their mother cries, too.
When parents finally separate, children are often unhappy. However, this does not mean that they will always be unhappy because of it. Parents should be aware that for them a period of life is ending and for a child its whole world. In addition, there may be a certain uncertainty: “If one leaves, won’t the other leave too, at some point?”, fear of loss can be the result. Studies show that especially the first two years after a separation are the most difficult. This is the time when children need the most support. If they receive this support from both parents, the chances are good that they will be able to come to terms with what has happened in a positive way.