My relationship was over. It was time to get out and focus on creating a new life for myself and my kids. I knew in my heart I didn’t want to turn the kids’ lives upside down, so I made a decision to transition into our new life over a period of a month. My deepest desire was to ensure my kids’ needs were front and centre of this transition. I didn’t want them to be lost amid the turmoil that would surely ensue. Intuitively I knew that if my actions were based around their best interests, there would be a higher chance they would transition with their emotional well-being intact.
Here’s where it started;
- Finding our new home – When I started looking for a place to live I was specific with what I was after. I wanted my kids to come to a place that would make them feel they were getting a fresh, exciting start, not just temporary accommodation.
I created a positive story around this to start them on that journey of transition. They were two years of age at the time. I explained that I would be finding a new home for us to live in. I was going to buy new beds for them and they would get two places to play in with lots of their favourite toys in both. I involved them in the process of looking at places to live when I had narrowed down my search. They were excited!
- Moving out – It was important to me that when I removed all of our belongings from our current home, the kids were not present. I packed things up gradually and put all of the boxes out of sight.
Over the weekend our things were moved out and unpacked, so that when the kids arrived at their new home things weren’t in disarray. To ease everyone into this new situation, I allowed the kids’ dad to stay the first night, so that if they woke up the next morning unsettled, we were both there to comfort them.
- Transition – Over the next ten weeks the kids’ dad came to see them each day for a short period of time. I didn’t want there to be a huge void in anyone’s life. It was extremely uncomfortable for me, but it was more important for my kids to be able to maintain their connection with their dad. I know that allowing this to occur was an absolute game changer for helping my kids transition in the best way possible.
- Communication – My ex-partner and I agreed that we would keep all communication in front of the kids respectful and conflict free.
I knew that if our kids saw us as being okay with each other they would be too. Any important conversations were done via text message and the kids were never burdened with passing messages back and forth between us. Adult conversations stayed with the adults.
When the kids were sad or missed their dad, they rang him or vice versa. I took photos of the kids enjoying special activities or events and sent them on to their dad to see.
To help them get used to living in two locations, for the first three months I read them a story each night about another child who had two homes to live in because her parents were separated.
- Normality – I tried to keep the kids’ lives as normal as possible. They continued going to the same school, even though it was much farther away for us now. Whenever my ex-mother-in-law wanted to visit the kids, I said yes.
Christmas came two months after separating. I knew this would be difficult, so I introduced a new family tradition for the kids. We put up a Christmas tree for the first time. They helped me decorate it. We left biscuits and milk out for Santa and his reindeer’s.
- Gratitude – As time passed, I was keen to teach the kids what I had learned about being grateful. Each night at dinner I would ask them “What was the best thing about your day?” Without judgment, I wrote the things down in a journal. Their answers at the time were nothing short of delightful. They included things like “having fun with my friends and when I’m sad my friends make me happy.”
I have learnt to never underestimate my kids and their intelligence. Yes they are shielded from a lot of things, and that’s my job as a parent, but I wanted them to be fully engaged in this life-changing event so that they knew what to expect every step of the way.