How can my (soon-to-be) ex and I speak with our kids about how the relationship has petered out?
We don’t want our kids to feel like the breakup was their fault.
Discussing a relationship breakdown with children can be daunting. While the conversation will undoubtedly be difficult, it’s also a very important one to have. If you don’t address it directly with your kids, they will jump to their own conclusions about why you are separating. As you mention, the last thing you want is for them to blame themselves.
It’s helpful for parents to tell the children together, so they can both be there to reassure them. First, find a time to meet with your ex to plan out the conversation. What you choose to say will depend on the kids’ age, stage of development, maturity, and individual temperament. Agree on a place and time where there won’t be distractions and no one is hungry or tired. You may have strong emotions about the breakup, but it’s important to keep them in check. Getting into an argument in front of the kids will only make the situation worse.
When you and your ex feel ready, sit down with the kids together. Take a gentle tone. Emphasize that you and your ex continue to love and care for them, and that you’ll both remain in their lives. Avoid behaviour or language that may make the kids feel they have to take sides, or are responsible for one parent or the other.
If you feel you need help, there are professionals who can offer guidance. For example, you can speak to a family counsellor, child psychologist, or social worker.
For more tips, listen to this webinar clip and see this guidance on talking with your ex during a breakup. There are also online resources to help you prepare for difficult conversations with your children. (Try googling the phrase, “difficult conversation with kids.”)