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Preparing to tell the children

Telling your children that you’re separating can be the thing you most dread. You may fear your children’s reactions. It may also make your separation all the more real for you. Every child and every family are different, so it’s important to take time to think about your own children and your own particular family situation before you do anything.

Preparing to tell the children

Your separation is a life-changing event for your children. The more you plan and prepare for letting them know about it, the better you can support them.

Your children’s needs will depend upon their age and development, but the following are some areas you may find it helpful to think about when preparing to tell your children about your separation.

Can you work together?

If you can, speak to your ex about how you’re going to talk to the children.

If it doesn’t create conflict, it can help to tell your children about your separation together.

Whether working together or alone, you may want to prepare answers to the questions you most dread being asked.

Will you be strong enough?

Think about how you (and your ex) may react while breaking the news. Consider how can you deal with things if they get difficult.

What’s the best time and place?

Often, the family home is a comfortable place for children to be.

If you’ve young children, they may want something to play with to help them stay focused. However, with older children you may want to avoid the distraction of TV, phones and computers.

Pick an unhurried time when there’ll be no interruptions and you can all be around afterwards if necessary.

How will my children be?

It’s natural to have expectations of how your children may react. However, reactions can vary and are sometimes delayed. Try to be prepared for this and take one step at a time.

Thinking about what your children need

If you have experiences of your own parents separating or other couples close to your family, take a moment to remember how this felt for you.

  • How old were you?
  • What do you remember feeling?
  • How did someone else comfort you?
  • What helped and what didn’t?

Exploring these questions can help you work out what you want (or don’t want) for your children when they hear your news.

Check your situation with our assessment tools

  • Agreement builder - Children

    The process of answering the questions in each agreement builder should help you consider what outcomes are best for your children and both of you. They can form a useful starting point when discussing your situation with your ex-partner or a legal representative such as a solicitor.

    agreement builder
  • Motivation checker - Children

    How you’re going to be effective co-parents apart is one of the most important things you’ll need to figure out. It can be one of the hardest issues – very emotive. This tool aims to give you a head start to managing this well. It will help you explore your own motivations and emotions, and be curious about where your ex may be coming from and what lies behind their ideas.

    Child eating cereals
  • Children's living costs

    Use this tool to do some basic calculations on day to day costs for your child/ren. This will help you when planning your next steps.

    children living costs

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