De facto partners with children have the added pressure & challenges associated with helping children of the relations cope with the separation. It is natural to feel uncertain about how your child through a de facto separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time and help your children emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
Children are resilient and there are some simple strategies you can put in place during your de facto relationship property adjustment that will be of benefit. Separating de facto partners with children need to help them adjust to separation with patience, reassurance and by listening to them. These simple strategies can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances.
Routine also becomes very important for separating de facto partners with children. Children rely on routine for stability, structure and a sense of well being. It is an advantage if you can maintain open communication with your ex de facto partner while you negotiate your de facto separation entitlements. Making your children your priority during this time can greatly reduce their stress levels & concern for the future.
Our contributing Child Psychologist, Julie Dixon says the following points are critical for separating de facto partners with children:
- Children need both parents to stay involved in their lives, irrespective of what’s happening on a personal level between parents. Do things like write letters to your children, make phone calls to them, ask lots of questions about how they feel & what they think of any changes.
- Stop fighting in front of children and be accountable for how you treat each other. You could be about to finalize your de facto financial agreement but your children don’t need to be aware of this.
- Separating de facto couples with children need to support their children spending time with each parent. Don’t act jealously or question the children about your ex partners new partner or lifestyle post the breakup.
- Find a way to communicate directly with your ex partner about the children. Under no circumstances should the children be responsible for passing messages between the two of you.
- Separating de facto couples with children should talk respectfully about their ex partner to their children. By talking disrespectfully about your ex partner to your children you are only hurting your children. Remember they see themselves as being part of both of you.
Contributing Child Psychologist, Julie Dixon says when it comes to telling your children about your separation, don’t try to shield them, be honest but remember your audience. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing prior to sitting down to talk. Anticipate the tough questions, practice your responses, plan the conversation carefully regarding what you intend to tell the children. All of this preparation will help you be better equipped to support your family effectively.
Delivering the right message:
You need to ensure you take an empathetic tone and address the important issues. Remember your audience & what is likely to matter most to them.
- Be truthful. Your children need know that you are separating, but they don’t need to know the ins & outs of your de facto financial agreement. Be honest with your children but don’t ask them to take sides or get involved in the separation.
- Tell them you love them. It sounds simple but letting your children know that you love them and that this will never change matters.
- Address any changes. Preempt any questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now. Say your de facto relationship property adjustment means the family home will have to be sold. Speak to the children about this so they are aware of it.
Don’t blame anyone:
Being honest with your children is critical, but you should find a way to do this without being critical or blaming your ex partner. This can be hard to do, especially as you try to negotiate any de facto separation entitlements.
- Work with your ex partner. Try to find a way to work as a united front with your ex partner where the children are involved. Agree in advance how you will approach the discussion with the children & try not to deviate from what you agree. Don’t get into a blame game no matter the circumstances.
- Map out the conversation. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. Also, plan to talk to the children when your ex partner is present, if possible.
- Be respectful & show restraint. Be respectful of your ex partner when giving the reasons for the separation to the children. They just don’t need to know the detail of what went wrong.
Don’t talk in detail:
Try to be diplomatic with your children at the start of your separation. Don’t talk in detail about why your relationship is ending. Do go into detail about how your love for the children wont change. Think your responses through before answering questions as you don’t want to adversely affect the children with your answers to questions.
- Respond according to age. De facto partners with children need to be aware that generally, children will need to hear certain information in an age appropriate way. A good idea may be to separate younger children & teenage children and have two different discussions with each child.
- Explain how things will change. Your children will need to know about things like changes in their living arrangements & where you or your ex partner will be living etc. This type of detail can give them a sense of reassurance.
- Don’t lie to them. Irrespective of the level of detail, you must not fabricate or lie to your children. You can omit details but don’t make things up.
Listening & reassurance:
Contributing Child Psychologist, Julie Dixon says support should be given to children in the form of; helping them express emotions and truly listening to their feelings without getting defensive. You will also need to reassure young minds and allay fears, fix any misunderstandings and show the children unconditional love. The bottom line is simple: children need to know and believe that your de facto separation isn’t their fault.
Stability and structure:
Children are incredibly resilient but too much change all at once can be daunting for young minds. It is important to keep this in mind when sharing information with your children about your break up. The best way to alleviate angst regarding the break up is to provide your children with as much stability & structure on a daily basis as you can.
During this period some separating de facto couples go over board & try to run very rigid & structured households in an attempt to support their children. Structure & stability does not mean rigidity. Simple and regular routines are recommended coupled with open communication.
Take care of yourself:
If you are in a sinking boat, the first safety message will be to put on your own life vest and then to help your children put on theirs. The take-home message: take care of yourself so that you can be there for your kids. No matter how tough it is negotiating your de facto separation entitlements and closing the chapter on your past relationship you must take care of yourself.
Think about your recovery:
If you are able to be calm and emotionally present, your children will feel more at ease. The following are steps you can take toward improving your own well-being and outlook:
- Get fit & eat well. Some form of health & fitness program will help you manage your stress levels. Try to eat well and look after your body. It may be a period of high stress levels so make your own wellness a priority.
- Don’t’ lock yourself away & hide from the people who love & want to support you. Push yourself to see people. Take the time to explain to your inner circle what is happening to you so they can offer support & be there for you.
- Write it down. Sometimes the simple things work. Writing down how you feel can help you better understand your own feelings & identify unresolved issues. Don’t bottle it up.
Work with your ex:
As you try to finalize your de facto financial agreement try & work you’re your ex partner to create a win/win scenario. Conflict between parents, separated or not, can be very damaging for children.
Your family’s well-being:
The happiness of your children, yourself, and, yes, even your ex partner, should be of paramount importance to you. It doesn’t matter how financially rewarding your de facto relationship property adjustment is if it ultimately comes at the expense of your children. Negotiating a de facto financial agreement can be extremely difficult especially when children are involved as you need to ensure all de facto separation entitlements for the children are included.
Remember, the information contained on the site does not constitute legal advice. If you think you need legal advice you should contact an Accredited Family Law Specialist.
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