1. Share this information sheet with your ex so that what you are explaining to them will be consistent and clear to them.
2. As parents, both of you should tell the children that this was a difficult decision but in order to give everyone a better life that you as parents need to live apart. Explain that it does not mean you love them any less but this is a decision that has been made with a lot of thought and consideration.
3. Reassure the children that they are NOT the cause of your separation. Ensure that you tell them that sometimes adults can not get along so changes have to be made and that your decision is final.
4. Give your children a copy of the Fair Parenting schedule and all of the contact information for both households (phone numbers, addresses, etc.).
Re-assure that they will continue at the same school, have the same friends and that both parents will try to adhere to the children's schedule. Encourage them that they will make new friends at the other parent's home as well.
5. Follow the Fair Parenting schedule. This is extremely important in the early days so that everyone learns to understand and respect boundaries and the new reality of two households.
6. Make it easy and guilt free for the children to contact both parents. Your ultimate goal is for the children to feel wanted by each parent always. Encourage phone calls, Skype, texting etc. and be available as much as possible.
7. Do not give your children false hope. Do not promise them the stars when you cannot even reach the moon. Only make promises that you are able to keep.
8. Never ask your children to choose sides between parents. Remember, this separation was your idea and decision, not theirs.
9. You are the adults. Let your children express their emotions and vent their anger. Keep them safe and assure them that it is okay to feel how they do. Encourage them to channel their feelings into a productive activity (sports, writing, singing etc.) This is harder on your children than it is on you!
10. Never talk poorly about your ex in front of or within ear shot of your children. They see and hear everything! Rise above your own unhappy feelings and speak kindly about the other parent. If you can not say anything nice, do not say anything at all.
11. Find support for yourself. It is not the job of your children to make sure you are okay. They have enough going on to deal with. Seek professional help or talk to your clergy or friends. On the days that you do not have the children get out of the house; take a class, join a sport or pursue an interest.
12. Be present. Do what you say you will do, be where you say you will be. Keep in touch so your children feel connected to you.
13. Do not argue with your children about their feelings. They need to adjust and come to terms with this enormous change in their lives too. Encourage them to talk to you or arrange for family counselling. If it helps them, do it!
14. Maintain family routines, traditions and schedules as much as possible. Structure to children is important. Keep both parents involved whenever possible. Create new traditions if need be with the children's input.
15. Speak to your ex directly (or via text etc.). Do not relay messages through your children; they can be misconstrued when they do not come directly from you. Remember the telephone game? A lot can get lost along the way.
16. If possible, do not rush into a new relationship or, at the very least, do not introduce your new partner to your children right away. You may be ready to start a new chapter in your life but your children probably are not ready as soon. Remember, they do not necessarily want a new mom or dad.
17. If your ex already has a new significant and your child is involved with them, you have to enforce a positive attitude even if it is the furthest thing from your mind. Let your children know that Mom/Dad still loves them but that his/her partner is also part of his/her life now. If there is another child involved, express the positive, acknowledge the change and help guide your children to a better understanding of the new family dynamics. Tell your children that the other child is also experiencing the same kind of changes too.
18. If your ex has another child with their new partner explain how great it is to have a sibling...a life long friend.
19. Ultimately, remember that you have to put your child first as he/she is counting on you for all of the answers. If your children ask questions that are too hard to answer, pause and take a step back. Tell them that you need to think about it and that you will answer the best way you can when you are ready. There is no right or wrong answers when you have thought them through.
20. Encourage your children. Interact with them. Do not ask them too many questions! Listen to them. Acknowledge their feelings. Just Love Them.