When relationships end and there are children involved, it is essential that you take care of yourself so you can take care of them. It is difficult for children to understand what is going on and to make the necessary adjustments to a life which looks very different than the only one they have ever known. The way you cope with the changes in your life models to them the way they should handle change, both now and in the future.
For all of you, including your ex-partner, the break down of your relationship can cause immense pain, uncertainly and disillusionment. From your kids point of view, not only has the security of their life altered forever, but their two parents have also altered. In some cases you are unrecognisable as the caring loving person who made their world safe. They not only have to deal with their own pain but that of the parents they love so much.
And just because you are older than your kids does not automatically give you the skills you need to respond in a way which empowers both you and your children. You don’t know what you don’t know and can only react in ways which fall within your current knowledge or understanding. However, as an adult, you have access to knowledge and resources in a way that they don’t – they can only learn from you!
Take Care of Yourself
If you are in turmoil, anger and stress you will not have the reserves of strength to be there for your children as they navigate the change which are happening around them. So the first step is to take care of yourself by Reducing Stress, accepting Sad Days, learning how to cope with Emotional Pain, and being honest about your feelings. Start a journal where you can write your feelings out everyday.
Watch For Changes In Behaviour
Children will often develop new behaviours which are the outward expression of their internal feelings. These can include physical changes such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking as well as emotional changes such as tantrums, stubbornness or rebellion. These types of behaviours are an alert to let you know that they are stressed, frightened and struggling to cope.
Your children will have lots of questions about what will happen next. Take the time to sit with them, listen to their concerns and answer honestly. Children know when they are being lied to and this will only make them more afraid. Speak clearly, concisely and in a way which removes your emotions from the conversation. Start with the facts and allow the questions to flow naturally. By being calm and honest, your children will feel they can continue to trust you.
Keep Life As ‘Normal’ As Possible
The changes you are all dealing with are stressful but keeping some form of normality will help you all cope. Children need routine so keeping the current structure of their day, even if you are in a new location, will give them a foundation and comfort they can rely on. Focusing on the things which are the same rather than those which have altered, gives continuity to your life whilst you adjust to the changes.
Maintain Important Relationships
Often when relationships break down, children lose many of the important people in their lives. Not only will one of their parents not be with them every day but other members of the family can also disappear. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends provide balance for your children and despite your feelings about your ex, it is vital to maintain these relationships for your kids. You do not have to interact with them if you are not comfortable but give yourself a break and surround your children with as much love as possible.
Keep The Lines Of Communication Open
Let your children know that they can talk about their other parent with you. It might feel impossible for you to hear about but keeping the lines of communication open between you and your children helps you help them. If they are comfortable to speak about anything, they will adjust more quickly to the new arrangements. If your kids feel that they are hurting you by discussing certain subjects, they will feel alone, isolated and bottle up their feelings which will not only impact on their ability to communicate in the future but also turn them to other people to find the connection they need from you.
Children need constant reassurance that everything is okay in your world so they can be comfortable in theirs. They will be watching closely to see how the changes are affecting you. Make sure you reach out with hugs, smiles, kind words and concentrated attention so your children know they are loved. Finding ways to play with them and let them see you laughing and happy will reassure them that they are not to blame for the breakup and reassure them that you are okay.
Taking care of yourself first, learning the new skills which will not only help you adapt but enable you to help your children understand the changes in their life too, is essential. Life is constantly changing and one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is to show them how to weather the storms of life in a way which is proactive and empowering. Your life will continue beyond the pain of this moment and how you show up to your kids will shape not only your relationship with them but also their own relationships in time to come.