So, the Other Parent Is Moving Out - What Do You Tell the Children?
One of the most painful times in my life was facing the reality that my “Barbie dream house family” was likely not going to stay together. The announcement of my husband wanting a divorce left me hemorrhaging all over!
But unfortunately, life doesn’t stop just because we’re bleeding half to death. The kids still need transportation and someone still has to fix their sack lunches. And if that’s not enough, we’re faced with the daunting burden of telling the children that the other parent is going to live under another roof! What in the world do we say to them?
Friend, just like a ship needs a stout headlight and reliable navigation in the storm, we need the same. Experts give us hope by sharing these three starting points:
- Tell the children, “It is not your fault.” Many children believe that if they would have behaved better this would not be happening. Assure them that they had nothing to do with the separation; yet remember - they do not want to hear the details of the parents’ pain. Healthy relationships with the kids require the parent to share their negative emotions with an adult support person. Emotional wellness happens when parents reassure their children instead of “needing” the children to reassure them. So be careful with your words. You might say, We’ve had some problems. But this is not your fault. This is a grown-up issue and we’ll deal with it.
- Tell the children, “I will always be here for you.” For the younger child, their basic need is security and belonging. They need to know they are going to be safe. Calm them by saying, I am not leaving you, and even though your other parent and I will not be living in the same house, we still love you. For the older child (teenager), their basic need during this time is stability on your part. Be the one to model resilience. How you accept the change in your family dynamic will pave the way in how the kids transition. Remember, children learn what you live. So if you tell them, I will never leave you, then also tell yourself, I will never be toxic to them, either. This happens when parents fight in front of the kids or use them as a weapon or spy.
- Tell the children, “God is with us.” When the reality of a divorce happens, you feel defenseless. For days during the initial crisis stage, you do crazy things because you’re too encumbered to think rationally. In my book, The Single Mom and Her Rollercoaster Emotions, I shared three phases of one becoming single again. It’s dreadfully frightening and it’s normal to feel stranded. But you are not! Jesus whispers, I am with you. Though this is a surprise to you, it is not to me. I have known before time that this would happen. You can trust me. In your darkness, I am the head light on your ship. Practice my presence, and though the waves crash against you, they will not overflow you for I am the God of the waters.
You ask, How am I going to do life now without my spouse? Friend, God’s Word promises that when we bring Christ into our boats as the Overseer of the storm, He takes us to safe harbors. Your job is to call on Jesus. His job is to escort you through unsettledness and the daunting ocean of the unknown.
So stay strong, beloved mom! You will make it!
2 Timothy - “All deserted me, but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”