Dealing with the breakup of a serious or long-term relationship is a traumatic experience, but think about the valuable life lessons your kids can learn from your breakup and that can help you through this emotional minefield.
Don’t take it for granted
Children who witness the breakup of their parents' marriage – along with all the associated hurt and emotional suffering - are more likely to become disenchanted with the idea of marriage, or even relationships in general. On the other hand, some kids might find a strength of purpose that can drive them to do a better job of marriage and building a family than they believe their parents did. However, such strong desires may result in the person developing dysfunctional habits or socially harmful attitudes.
Both of these approaches contain the seed of a life-lesson that can be turned into something positive, which is that relationships and marriage are not to be taken for granted. Your children need your help to understand that relationships require commitment and work between people, rather than just hearing their parents blaming each other. Being respectful about your ex - and as honest as possible! - when talking with your children is essential and will help them to understand that, while it may not have worked out between you two, you both had the right intentions regarding your relationship at some point.
It’s OK, it’s all right
The fact that a relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean that that people are failures. More than that, it’s not at all shameful to come from a ‘broken’ family – as long as the unit has only split up and has not been broken into pieces through ugly fighting. Approaching your new life circumstances (and opportunities!) proactively and positively can go a long way to making an uncertain part of life a lot more stable for children. Helping them to understand that they are not alone and that your relationship with them will remain as strong as ever will also give them the strength they will need to enable them to deal with situations in their own lives where circumstances may not be in their control.
Understanding Others’ Needs and Empathy
Expanding on your feelings when talking to your children about your breakup can be difficult, but it is essential to always keep sharing of information on an age-appropriate basis. Sharing such feelings can help your children to develop a sense of empathy for other and to consider the feelings and needs of other people.
Children are self-centric by nature so, while young children may struggle, young teens will be able to identify more complex emotional riddles that arise around breakups. Watching how you handle your emotions and your daily life during such a trying time can be invaluable for their own future ability to cope with difficult times. In particular, maintaining a sense of civility about and around your ex can provide an incredibly strong sense of guidance for your child.
Looking at difficulty as a learning experience
As one half of the breakup equation, you have a choice in terms of how you express your feelings: you can either be full of blame, vitriol and hatred for life, or you can make an effort to be (and to present yourself as) more self-reflective and to look at the experience as one to learn from. Make no mistake, your kids will watch you closely during this time and they will take that life lesson from you. It sounds simplistic to say from a distance, but at a certain point you will need to project a positive – or at least a proactive - attitude to moving beyond the pain and anger of your breakup. Your kids will take from this the knowledge that facing tough times need not be the end of the world - especially if your closest relations remain strong.
Godfrey Madanhire is one of Southern Africa’s leading life coaches and motivational speakers. See more from him at dreamworldpromotions.co.za
How did you explain a relationship ending to your children?