Question: What is a sample script to talk to your kids about separation?
Don: Separation Talk Script Guidelines
1. Start with a loving message,
2. Then give the difficult news,
3. Then make reassuring comments, and
4. End with another loving statement
• Spare them your feelings.
• Don’t criticize the other parent.
• Reassure, reassure, reassure.
• Listen to their emotion. Reassure, reassure, reassure.
• Show a united front.
• Both mom and dad share portions of the message.
• You tell them the practical implications of the separation.
• Don’t tell them “who did what to whom, who hurt who, etc." That part they don’t need to know ,especially now.
• Saying how you feel, is okay, but brief. A word or two is best. Less is more.
After they are told, at some point soon after, each parent spend time with each child alone, not to tell
them more info, but to listen more to how they feel and give more reassurance. NOT going into who did what to whom.
Here is a sample of telling your kids about a separation:
“Mom and dad have something important to talk with you about.” “Mom and dad love you very much.”
“Mom and Dad are not happy together right now and we want to take a time out from each other, so we’ve decided to live in different places for a while.” Each of us will still be with you.
“We have some adult problems.. None of this is your fault. You did not cause our problems and you cannot fix or change them.”
“No matter what, we love you very much. The kind of love we have for you is the kind that never ends. We will always be your parents and we will continue to take care of you.”
Invite questions: “Do you have any questions? You can ask or say anything and I won’t be mad at you.”
(If child asks a question you don’t have the answer to)
“That’s a good question. Unfortunately I can’t answer that right now. I know it’s hard to feel confused and uncertain.”
Explain living and visiting arrangements: Parent who is sleeping outside the home:
“I am going to be staying some at ________. I will continue to take you to school, spend time together, do school work, play with you. You are going to live here in the house and keep going to the same school and see your friends. I will also be here at the house some. I will always be your Mommy/Daddy.”
Try to alleviate the child’s guilt by repeatedly saying, “Nothing you did or said made this happen. You did nothing wrong or bad”
Relieve child’s pressure to get you to reconcile by saying: “You did nothing to make this happen.”
Reassure child that your sadness is not the child’s fault: “I am sure this is very upsetting for you, Mom and dad are also upset. You may see us looking upset or even crying— even though we are sad, we are OK and we are here to take care of you. I am not upset because of anything you said or did.”
Reassure child that some things will stay the same: “Some things may change, like when and how much time you spend with each of us, but lots of things will stay the same, like you will still go to the same school, and see your friends...”
Validate and normalize child’s feelings: “I know you feel _____. Whatever you are feeling is normal and OK.”
How to Handle More Difficult Situations
Many parents believe it is best to shield children from the truth, that somehow this will protect them. More often than not, the opposite is true. Misleading children, hiding the truth, or lying to them about the circumstances of the separation/divorce can do more harm than good. Here are some reasons why it is important to be open and honest with children about the details of the separation/divorce:
• If adults avoid open discussion with children, this sends the message that it is not okay to talk and children will shut down.
• It is natural to spare children from the truth by making up another explanation. However, children often find out the truth by accident by overhearing a conversation. It is better for children to be given accurate information by their parent(s).
• If children are lied to and later they somehow learn the truth their trust in you can be difficult to regain. They might think, “If you lied to me about this, what else are you lying to me about?”
• When children are given honest and age-appropriate explanations in a planned way by caring adults, it provides an opportunity to process their feelings, answer their questions, and reassure them.
Easy does it. Small steps taken often are best.