Children are confused, and if their mother is upset and can’t answer their questions properly, they will fear that there will be no one to look after them. More than that, a child might blame him or herself for the break-up. They believe it is because of them that mommy and daddy are fighting.
Ways to reassure children
You have to put your own fears and emotions on hold and deal with them in private. The first thing to do is to sit your children down and reassure them that you and their father can’t live together anymore, but that while their father has left the house, he hasn’t left them. Tell them that they will see their father on weekends, if that is so, and perhaps also during the week. They can also call their father anytime they need to speak to him. Don’t go into what divorce means, but explain that their father won’t be staying at the house anymore.
If you are upset with their father, don’t discuss him in a negative way. You don’t want your children to hate their father. You don’t have to explain the reason for his leaving. How does one explain that daddy has fallen in love with someone else? Or that daddy just wants to be free? Or that daddy is a sex addict or an alcoholic? You must dismiss any thought of taking your children into your confidence and tell them what their father has done. The father isn’t there to defend himself. It is also very harmful to discuss your intimate and private matters with them. They will feel responsible and it will only confuse them more.
The first weeks after the break-up are the hardest; not only for you, but for them. Spend extra time at night with them when you put them to bed. Reassure them that everything will be just as before, but without daddy – that daddy loves them. He will still come to the school play or to parents’ night. Their daddy will be their father forever.
Things not to do:
- Don’t cry in front of the children.
- Don’t tell them that they are just like their father when you are angry.
- Don’t change your routine in the house. If you have had story-telling time with popcorn on a Friday night, continue to do so.
- Don’t make your eight or nine-year old son the ‘man of the house’. It is too much responsibility for a child.
How you handle your children during these trying weeks will determine how well they do in school, with other children, at home, and their mental health.