There really isn’t any easy way to tell your teens you and your spouse are separating. It’s one of the hardest decisions any married couple has to make. Many times it is one spouse who wants the separation more, so it’s harder on the one that doesn’t. Sometimes it is mutual. In either case, it’s sad, painful and life-altering for everyone — and something I recently had to talk about with my teenagers.
Do you think my kids saw this coming? In most cases, our kids do see it coming. They see their parents fighting often, but most parents try hard to make a marriage work, particularly for the kids.
The most important thing to do when telling your teenagers their parents are separating is to make sure you communicate that it is NOT about anything they did. Tell them how much you love them. Kids need to feel safe and secure. Most teenagers will make the separation about them and how this will make them look to their friends. They will worry about what their friends will think. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed.
You can’t help how your teen feels but you can help how you handle the conversation with them. Through my recent experience, here is what I discovered:
Acknowledge their feelings
Some teens may lash out and get angry because they are scared and they want to blame someone. If that happens, remind yourself that the behavior is okay. It’s important to acknowledge their fears and anger. Let them know you will do everything to make the separation as amicable as possible. The important thing is to make them feel loved, safe and assured that everything will be okay. Life won’t be the same, but it will be okay.
Know that no age is a good age
I don’t know how many moms or dads have had to deal with this, but separation is tough. No parent wants to separate from a spouse unless there is no other recourse. Sometimes I wonder if separation is better when kids are younger or much older? I have heard different theories. I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this.
Be direct and kind
I realize there is no easy way to break the news. The best approach is to sit your kids down and for you and your spouse to make them feel safe and loved. I can’t reiterate that. Tell them you will always be a family but right now mom and dad need some time to breathe — apart from each other. Let them know you haven’t been getting along and you don’t want them to live in a house filled with constant fighting and sadness. Mom and Dad are taking this time to themselves to fix what is broken and let it heal. Life is not easy so you need to take it one day at a time.
Tell your teen that whichever spouse moves out will set up a weekly schedule to meet, call, or text the other to keep in communication. Also, let them know their parents will always be there for them.
I look forward to hearing other parents’ separation stories and how they handled it and how the kids handled it.
No married couple ever looks forward to telling their kids they are separating, but sometimes we can’t control what life throws at us.