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advice please- how to tell children of separation

(20 Posts)
ditziness Thu 30-Jun-11 12:12:09

I don't want to give too much info as I'm a namechanger, scared of being indentified, everything's a bit raw.

Married ten years, 3 kids 9, 6 and 2. Husband left recently after two years of marital problems, illness, work and financial troubles. Horribly stressful for all. Wife suspects husband depressed, husband denies it and blames wife. No affair apparently. Husband left out of blue, cashed in savings and is renting a 2 bedroom house an hour away from family home, saying unhappy and doesn't want to be married anymore.

No idea at this stage about reconciliation or divorce at this stage. Hellishly raw and unexpected.

How to tell children who are wondering where daddy is?

Any advice? links?

malinkey Thu 30-Jun-11 12:22:37

Poor you, what a horrible situation. What do you want to happen? Are you able to talk to him? Or go to relate together to discuss it?

As far as the children go, I would suggest reading 'The Guide for Separated Parents: Putting your children first'. Be as honest as you can with them (in an age appropriate way) and make sure you reassure them that it's not their fault and mummy and daddy still love them. You could say that daddy is very sad and doesn't want to live with mummy any more.

Is he seeing the children at all? Has he made a regular time to see then? That will make a difference as to what you say to them. If not, why not?

Are you sure there has been no affair?

ImperialBlether Thu 30-Jun-11 12:49:49

I've had to do this and to be honest, it was horrific.

Friends said I should get my (then) husband to tell them (he was having an affair, though he didn't want to leave.) I didn't want him to; I wanted to control what they heard.

First I made sure that we wouldn't be disturbed and told them in a room which didn't overlook the street (children playing outside could see in.) I took the phone off the hook and switched off my mobile. I sent my cowardly ex out (he didn't want to be there whilst they were told.)

I told them that I had bad news but that eventually everything was OK. Then I told them. Mine was different as I had to say he had another girlfriend.

If I were you I would stress his depression. I think it will be easier for the children to hear that. Also stress there's nobody else involved; again, that will be easier.

There's no way your children don't know you're having marital problems. I think there will be an immense sense of relief after a while.

It's an awful thing to have to do and my heart goes out to you.

Oh one thing I found very useful - I told them not long before Coronation Street was on - they loved that programme (they were aged 11 and 8.) Once they'd cried for ten minutes I phoned their dad and told him to come back. Cue more tears. Then after a few minutes I told them Coronation Street was on - miraculously they all dried their tears and watched it - laughing their heads off at the actors. They didn't cry again - says more about their dad's lack of involvement, I think.

I would have something to distract them after a while, though. Crying makes everyone feel awful.

ImperialBlether Thu 30-Jun-11 12:50:15

Oh and I told my children's friends' parents - I didn't want them to have to do that.

malinkey Thu 30-Jun-11 12:53:18

Oh, and do it early in the day rather than last thing at night so it's not the last thing on their mind when they go to bed. And maybe tell them that if they want to ask you any questions or want to talk about it some more they can do so whenever they want to.

The most important thing though is to stress it's not their fault, especially for younger children who believe they are to blame for everything that happens around them.

ImperialBlether Thu 30-Jun-11 13:18:25

I would stress it's nobody's fault, to be honest. There's no point in letting your children know someone's to blame. They're not stupid; they will figure it out in their own time.

I had to tell my children that my then husband's girlfriend was very, very nice and would always be good to them. I could have torn her limb from limb, personally, but had to trust that she wouldn't harm them.

ImperialBlether Thu 30-Jun-11 13:19:02

And yes to doing it early in the day. And don't do something unusual that day (eg a first trip somewhere) as they will associate it with being told.

ImperialBlether Thu 30-Jun-11 13:19:41

I took mine to Scotland the next day (to see my sister) as it took their minds off it and the journey was great for answering their occasional questions.

ditziness Thu 30-Jun-11 16:21:20

not sure that there's been no affair. still very early days. not made any arrangements. he seems to think that he can continue to come and go as he pleases. i don't want him anywhere near me. children think he's away on a work trip and are missing him.

i don't know where to go from here.

thank you for the advice. will get that book. please keep it coming. utterly lost

Firepile Thu 30-Jun-11 17:07:12

Sorry to hear that you are going through this, ditziness. I had a similar thing with my 4 year old ds, and it was hellish.

I actually told him very quickly (the next day) because it was so obvious to him that I was upset and he didn't know where his dad was. I suspect that your kids will know that there is something wrong, no matter how well you are covering up your shock and upset, and they are likely to cope better with knowing what is happening than worrying about something that isn't being talked about.

I was very straightforward about it, and told him that I was sad because it looked like daddy wasn't going to be living with us anymore. I made it clear that we both still loved him, and that it would be OK.

I think the advice about having something else to do is helpful. And it might be helpful for there to be other trusted adults around that they can talk to about it if they want to - the older ones might feel that they have to protect you from their feelings.

I was a mess for a very long time, and think it was helpful that I was honest about feeling sad with my ds - so that he knew that it wasn't anything to do with him. I did have a bit of a catchphrase that "when sad things happen, it's all right to be sad".

Kids pick up on feelings, and I remember when my parents' marriage was in meltdown. Nobody talked to me about it, and I was frantically anxious the whole time. I think kids usually understand more than adults think they do.

Not that that makes it any easier, of course. Telling ds was really hard. I feel for you.

(For me there was a big issue that if I told people, it would become "true", and I'd have to stop being in denial that this awful thing had happened. That didn't help.)

ditziness Thu 30-Jun-11 18:15:59

thank you.

Should i have differnt approaches for telling the different children?

9 and 6 year olds are girls and the 2 year old is a boy

malinkey Thu 30-Jun-11 18:32:29

Sounds like he would benefit more from reading the book to be honest! Might be an idea to buy him a copy too! The jist of it is doing everything in the 'best interests' of the children, whatever the parents' agendas might be.

Was it your savings he cashed in? Have you had any legal advice? I think the soonest you can make a formal arrangement over contact with the children the better. He can't just bugger off and upset everyone then expect to just swan in whenever he wants to. For their peace of mind they need to know when they can expect to see him.

Also if he's taking your money you need to protect yourself in case/before he clears out any joint accounts etc.

Not sure about the different approaches for the different children (my DS is only 3). I did read somewhere that it's good to give them a reason for why it's happened - not blaming anyone but it's better to say 'Daddy doesn't want to live with mummy any more because xxx <trying desperately to think of a suitable reason to insert apart from he's a selfish twat but you get the idea>' rather than saying it's for the best or a general we don't love each other any more. I think a reason gives them more security that you or he won't just stop loving them any more IYSWIM.

ditziness Fri 01-Jul-11 12:59:24

not sure what to do. the eldest took ages to go to sleep last night as she felt "unsettled" and "that something has changed". middle daughter asking for daddy lots. they know something is up. Should i tell them sooner rather than later, even though I don't know whether it's permanent? is it more damaging to be lied to or to be told it's over when we don't know that ourselves?

husband currently saying he needs space to figure out how he feels, whether he still loves me.

School's over in 2 weeks, i could take the three of them away to their grandparents for the summer holidays and give him that space? and not tell them unless that space brings about divorce?

ditziness Fri 01-Jul-11 13:00:22

does anyone know of how you can get professional advice for this? is their some kind of family counsellor specialist to speak to? so lost

ditziness Fri 01-Jul-11 15:22:46

please help?

ditziness Fri 01-Jul-11 20:13:37


i've looked and i can't find anywhere to get advice. Does anyone know of a helpline or counselling service? i'm in the northwest

bejeezus Sat 02-Jul-11 21:58:25

i have to do this soon and am absolutely dreading it. my dd is 6 yo. stbxh hasnt yet moved out but will soon. It makes me sick every time I think about telling her.

Advice that I have been given is to put a bit of a positive spin on it; say living all together makes mum and dad sad and grumpy. Explain that people who are married should be kind to each other and it is not ok to argue all the time, its not good for the parents and it will make the kids sad; so dad is moving to a new home so that everyone can be happier.

Personally though, I agree with previous comment; I think its really important to let them know that it is OK to feel sad or angry about it

? confused ?

good luck

let us know how it goes

LawrieMarlow Tue 05-Jul-11 08:17:45

Both H and I were dreading telling our DC (7 and 5) that he was going to move out. We both told them together that Daddy was going to live in another house - didn't say about people not being friends etc as didn't seem the right thing to say. As there hadn't been storming rows it also felt wrong saying this would make everyone happier.

Initially they were both a bit upset but this was only on the day we told them. H moved out a few days afterwards and they really seem fine about having Daddys house and "this" house. He's been gone for a couple of months now and the situation is a lot better than I thought it might have been.

(I still hate it but hopefully keep that to myself <wry smile>

ToothbrushThief Tue 05-Jul-11 08:21:31

ditz - it will get better

My 9 yr old accepted divorce and after a first hellish year is very very settled and I think happier than when we were married

JaceyBee Tue 05-Jul-11 09:41:30

I also am in a very similar situation, we have 2 dcs aged 6 and 4 and dh has moved out saying he's not happy living here and doesn't know what he wants. He is also pretty depressed and is seeing a therapist on my advice. The week he left was horrible, I had know idea what to say to the dcs as I didn't know myself and neither did he, I just said daddy wasn't going to be living here for a while but that we both still loved them, it wasn't their fault and everything was going to work out fine in the end. The oldest asked if were splitting up and I had to say I didn't know yet, but that we would all be ok either way.

Now we're 3 months on, things are still not settled but it has pretty much agreed that we will separate more formally. He is living with a mate of ours at the moment but obviously can't have the dcs to stay over there so it's far from ideal. He does see them regularly though, I think that makes a difference.

Others may disagree with me but I personally think that you don't necessarily have to wait until you have a definitive plan before you tell the dcs what's going on. It's ok to say you don't know yet to any questions they have as long as they know it's ok for them to ask. It sounds as if they have a pretty good idea that somethings not right anyway, and I think the girls are old enough to not be kept in the dark which may be more stressful for them. Unfortunately, in my personal experience and from reading many similar stories on here, when a man leaves saying he doesn't know what he wants/how he feels and 'needs space' - 9/10 times he doesn't come back.

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