We spoke with Dr. Jenn Berman, host of "The Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn" on Sirius XM Satellite Radio station COSMO Radio, about the steps you can take to help your children come to terms with this loss.
1. Breaking the news
Honesty is always the best policy when breaking the news of your breakup to your children, says Berman. She suggests sitting down with them and being very clear and concise, saying: "I have some sad news to share with you. Bob and I will not be dating anymore, and what that means is he won't be coming around anymore. This doesn't mean he doesn't care about you, and he still wants to spend time with you. This will be a tough transition, but if you have any questions you can always ask me." Many people tend to over-explain themselves when they're nervous, so Berman suggests not going into too much detail.
2. Answering their questions
It's very important to give kids time to ask questions. "They will probably ask why this has happened," says Berman. "Don't share the details of your sex life or intimate life with your kids. Say ‘Sometimes adults love each other very much but don't work out in a relationship.'" Berman also suggests not giving your kids too much information, which can do more harm than good.
3. The ideal scenario
Whether it is you or a family member, such as a sibling or grandparent, who broke up with a partner, if your child had a strong relationship with this person, it is important for this person to honour his or her commitment to that relationship. "To suddenly pull the relationship out of your child's life can create a big sense of loss," says Berman. "Children are egocentric, so they might wonder what they did wrong."
Therefore, it's important to wean your children off that relationship and make them feel secure, reassuring them that the breakup has nothing to do with them or anything that they said or did.
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4. Maintaining contact
The best way to wean your child off of an ex is by having your ex call your kids (or vice versa) to check in and say hello, or by having them come visit your house. "By doing so, it will ease the child's sense of loss a little bit," says Berman, who also advises checking in at least once a week.
Wondering how long to keep this up? Depending on how involved your ex was in your kids' life, it's best to maintain contact for as long as possible. But keep the lines of separation clear. "It would be confusing if Bob was seen kissing mommy post-breakup," says Berman.
5. Introducing them to someone new
Although this might sound drastic, Berman says to wait at least one year before introducing your kids to a new partner. Before the one-year mark, you're still in the honeymoon phase of the relationship where everything seems fabulous, and it's uncertain where the relationship is going. "It's about attachment. Having your children get attached to someone who may or may not be around is precarious," says Berman. "It is a huge mistake to put kids in that position."
Breakups are complex, especially when it's not just your feelings that are involved, but your children's, too. Following a breakup, allow your kids to grieve the loss of the person, and in future dating scenarios be cautious about allowing your children to get too close to a new partner too quickly.
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