So you and your husband, wife or domestic partner have decided that the relationship is over. Whether this is a mutual separation or initiated by one party, ending a relationship, especially a long-term relationship, can turn very ugly even in the absence of children. But what does a couple do when there are children involved?
Sadly, in a great deal of relationships, once the ending has commenced, the children are forgotten. Or rather, put to the side because the two adults involved are too intent on either hurting one another or simply on getting what they want as a result of the demise of their relationship. Children all too often are also put in the middle of a separation, which only causes the need for possible counseling for that child. Why is it that when a couple is together and they love each other, the care of the child is never an issue because they take the responsibility as partners and parents seriously? But as soon as a relationship is over, accusations are flung this way and that regarding the past as well as the care of the child(ren). It is up to the adults involved to maintain civility for the good of the child(ren). No one wants to hurt their child, nor is a child at fault for a couple's break-up. So rather than put him/her in the middle, what exactly an be done to ensure their emotional health and well-being?
1. First of all, keep insults, fights and arguments as far away from the child(ren) as possible. While children do need to understand that conflict in life is normal, they don't need to see their parents having a go at each other and flinging every bit of ammo they have. A child knows when something negative is going on in his or her life without needing to see the sordid details of it all.
2. When together, the parents need to focus on the child(ren). Giving them the same love, attention and affection regardless of how bad your personal relationship is going is very important to ensure that the child(ren) knows they are still loved by both parents.
3. Talk to your child(ren). If you have a calm, serious talk with them in terms they are able to understand based on their age, this can keep the child(ren) from thinking that the break-up is their fault. A simple, "Mommy and daddy are having a hard time getting along, but that does NOT mean that we won't be taking care of you" can be very effective. Reassuring your child(ren) that no matter what, he/she will always have both of you as loving parents can help a great deal!
4. Do you best, when there are two homes for the child to live in or visit, to have a very similar routine for the child regardless of where he or she is as well as maintaining the most consistent and responsible standard of living and lifestyle. Children are creatures of habit and will need that consistency in a time that can be very stressful for them.
5. Never EVER speak in a negative manner about the child's other parent, and do not allow your friends or family to speak negatively in front of the child. Whatever broke the two of you up in all likelihood has nothing to do with the child(ren), so don't destroy his or her view of the other parent. Eventually, that will make the child resent you because as an adult, you must be able to control your personal feelings about the other parent.
Remember, regardless of the reason for your break-up, you must maintain consistency for your child(ren). Ensure that they are given the same amount of love and attention as they always received. Never make up for time lost with your child. Maintain discipline and rules so the child doesn't believe he/she can get away with one thing at one parent's house but not at the other. When we are careful to follow some of these very simple rules, we can ensure that our children grow up as mentally and emotionally healthy as possible. And, in the end, regardless of how or why a relationship ended, the children must come first.