Ask SWK: How to tell the kids about a trial separation?

Posted on by Single With Kids

A reader asks…

“I’m new to this and don’t know where to start.. My hubbie & I have agreed to a trial separation. He hasn’t moved out yet as he’s still sorting out somewhere to stay. We have no idea how to tell our kids (9 and 4). All suggestions welcome”

Please note that replies to Ask SWK questions are from both single mums and dads, we use initials on the blog to protect our readers.

Our followers answer…

CH – “Would it be inappropriate to say;
“stop thinking about yourself”
“how about you moving out”
and.. “there’s no trial in separation”
Am I so wrong ?”

JN – “That’s a bit harsh CH!
….. And not really helpful in answering the actual question!”

KG – “I would say be honest with the children they understand more than what we give them credit for. Although if father is still living there it will be confusing so I would suggest the conversation once he leaves and both sit and tell the children. Reassurance is the key. I hope that helps. Good luck :)”

  • JN (reply to KG) – “I would agree KG, the 9 year old in particular will understand something is going on, so honesty & reassurance is the best way. I would also suggest that you try and talk to the children together as well. Good luck x”

CD – “It’s not that easy to move out with a couple of young children, they’ll be in school, maybe she doesn’t earn enough to move out, and where does it say that she’s thinking about herself? Very harsh indeed CH. If you can’t be constructive, how about keeping quiet?

Apart from that, I’ve not much to add, except that honesty is the best policy. Maybe “”Mum and dad have been fighting a lot recently, so dad’s moving out for a little while so we can think about whether we still love each other enough to keep living together. We still both love you, and you’ll see lots of dad (if that’s the case).”

CGB – “My children were 7,3 and 18moths when myself and my ex split after 14yrs together. I was terrified of telling them and the guilt was awful. However we sat the eldest down and explained that we couldn’t live together and that we made each other unhappy and shouted at each other and this wasn’t right. To my amazement my 7 year old was great. Yes, she was upset but she understood totally that we bother loved her just not each other. Kids are very observant and very resilient. Odds are your nine year old has a good idea what is happening in the house. Be honest with them as far as possible. Put them first, as I’m sure you do, and reassure them they can see, phone, Skype their dad at any time. Be kind to yourself also.”

CH – “Felt she wasn’t looking for answers JN just reassurance of her plans/course of action.”

MS – “There are a couple of good books on Amazon that I use when working with children, ‘what to do when mum and dad separate’ and mum and dad glue. It is best to talk to them, together if poss, reassure them that they are both still loved, they don’t need to know the ins and outs of why you are separating but what may happen in the future about contact with dad.”

LB – “Be honest, try to stay on good terms with each other so visits are not so traumatic for anyone. Worked with me, was difficult but glad we get on now and our kids don’t miss out.”

CW – “I kind of agree with CH, if one of you is leaving that’s it there is no going back and moving backwards isnt what you need to do anyway. This is about paving a way to a new stage of your life. I’m sure of you are both capable of sitting down to explain it to them together and honestly (maybe first both be honest with yourself no matter how depressing that seems) whole reinforcing you both still love them then your kids will probably get on with it and adjust a lot faster than you will as adults.

And make sure you get all the financial side sorted… never buy into the “oh I’m going to do that this week” bullshit. Be adults. My dad spent a lot of time at our house from when my parents split (i was 3) up til he died last recently… there really is no reason to make everything a battlefield if possible.”

GD – “Take your kids on a single with kids trip, so they can see how awesome single parents are. Then tell them that you’re a single parent too.”

SS – “I would say a trial is difficult. Why is it only a trial? When it comes to separation. The kids often think that if everything can just be perfect. Then Mum and Dad, will get back together. That is a difficult phase for them to go through. If you separate, then get back together and then separate. It’s not going to be good for them. You have to have confidence, that when you tell them. That this is the new way of life. That it isn’t their fault/anything they did/they can’t change the outcome etc. For most children. A new routine, which you all stick to. Is good. It won’t be easy, but we’ve all been through it. So i’m sure there will always be advice available. Good luck.”

AB – “Don’t call it trial. And figure out a way to co-parent and say that’s what you’re doing.”

KB – “Be prepared for two very confused children. They need to adapt to one parent not being there. I’m sorry but there is no such thing As a trial. It’s either a split or not where kids are concerned. The children need to get into a new routine. So decision times. Do you want to to be with your husband or not. No Ifs no buts , because newsflash its not about you anymore.

Another thing you think about now is how you will manage money. I’ve been in the situation and ended up having my ex spend slot of our joint money entertaining his mistress.
Then if he isn’t contributing to the family pit any more, time to look at the bigger picture of benefits.
Kids are resilient. But you need to decide. together or not. If you do split. It’s mommy and daddy are not living together anymore but it doesn’t mean we love you any less.
It’s more than. Likely that they have figured something is going to happen anyway”

CH – “Agree with you KB and AB”

WT – “If you’re going, go!”

RC – “Bless you, you are all going through so much right now. Perhaps it would be helpful to the kids (and to you) if there was a time set on the trial separation? Perhaps this why the ‘trial’ bit of your post has been questioned… If it’s a trial, maybe try and be clear about the paramenters of the experiment… for how long, what are you both wanting to see happen? When will you review the situation? Then, although it’ll be confusing for the kids, at least you’ll have put some boundaries around that confusion for them… given them a point at which it will become clear? And yes, work out the money side of things… And contact with the kids? If he’s moving out will the home you are staying in be seen as yours? As in will he need to respect boundaries there, not just let himself in etc… Clarifying these things could help the kids process things too… I’d caution about using wording like ‘we don’t love each other enough anymore’… kids might feel vulnerable to that circumstance happening to them? Sorry to not have concrete advice on wording… And for the stupid long post… All the very best to you at this time xxxxx”

EK – “Be strong… Do what is right for you and your kids. It might be shitty for a long time and you’ll feel like giving in & you’ve done the wrong thing, but long run think about what’s right for you and what makes you happy because kids pick up on everything…if you’re happy, they’ll be happy.. 4 years on my 10 & 5 year old know I’m happy & it makes them happy… I’m not one for staying with someone for the kids sake, it doesn’t work xx

I lived with my ex before I moved out, for personal reasons I got to the point where I had to go. Psychologically I couldn’t put up with it anymore,and although financially & emotionally it screwed me over, I had to look at the greater good.. I 100% promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel..it might be stormy now,but it can’t rain forever x”

EA – “Just make a decision and stick to it, it breaks their hearts, but messing around only makes it worse. Wish two years on and having now rebuilt my life that I hadn’t been messed around for 12 months with a will we or won’t we try and make this work. I will never forget the damage it did to my at the time 8 year old though — broke my heart and whilst we are on good terms I will never ever forgive the fact they just want their family together again. Your life post separation will always be complicated (that’s not necessarily bad but you need to brace yourself) on so many many levels.”

SL – “Trial separation is that code for affair or either of you have been cheating.”

SW – “Don’t do it.”

ND – “If you are using the term trial, then there must be hope? Throw everything you have got at working it out………x”

NS – “Play them ‘your mother and I’ by Louden wainwright box of tissues required x all the best x”

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