Getting through it with children.

When my children were little I taught them the alphabet. A is for Apple, B is for Baby, C is for Cat, D is for Dog...They grasped it pretty quick. Yet when they reached 5 and 8 years old, their D for Dog had changed and so had their lives.

D now stood for Divorce and this took a lot longer to understand.

Making the decision to divorce when you have children is never going to be easy. It doesn't happen over night. As a mother, you never really put yourself first as there are little one's needs to tend to, yet deciding to separate from your husband and split up your family it is exactly what you do. And it doesn't feel good.

Dealing with your partner's emotions is one thing, but they are a grown up and they have to take half the responsibilty and often don't. But children need take no responsibilty for it, yet they often do.

My son, then aged 5, summed up his feelings pretty clearly during a school assembly about a month after my husband moved out. His teacher approached me cautiously after school in the playground and told me "we were doing an assembly on anger and the children were asked if they had ever been angry. Your son stood up and said "I am angry at my Mum for making my Dad leave my house.""I thought you should know." Ouch.

Going back, the day we told the kids that we were going to separate was probably not the worst, but felt like it at the time. We said the standard "It's not your fault...Mum and Dad don't love each other any more but we both love you the same....things won't change much."

Ok that last bit was a lie, but it seemed the right thing to say.

Dealing with children's feelings is very complicated. You can never assume what they are thinking. I decided to answer their never ending questions as honestly as possible but tailored to their age. There were no lies, but a lot of things were missed out. I never said a bad word about their father other than the obvious "we don't love each other any more." It was very exhausting.

Examples were used, such as falling out of friendship with their school friends but that often backfired as the following week they tended to have made up. I tried the "we are still friends" line, but again that backfired as they know a few of our friends who flat share. Life is pretty black and white as a kid and trying to explain different types of love is a tricky one, but important, as the horror that you could fall out of love for them is a common anxiety after divorce.

One of the most heartbreaking times is packing them off to spend a weekend with their father. They had never spent so much time alone with him before and judging by the several phonecalls over the coming weekends regarding what to do when they won't eat/behave/sleep/bath/do anything you ask without an arguement, it was apparent that was true to all concerned.

But this became an advantage. I added to the "it's better for all of us this way" by adding "now you get to actually spend more time playing with your Dad."

The first couple of years were a blur. But I remained adamant that a) it was the right decision, b) I would remain friendly with their Dad and c) that it would be alright in the end.

B was tricky. But the look on small people's faces when an arguement brewed was enough to make me back down and as a consequence I conceded many battles. On some level it helped with my guilt (there can be a lot of that) on another it meant the children mostly saw us smile at each other and communicate in pleasant tones. This is how I remember my parent's when they divorced. Yes history repeated itself, but now I know they probably wanted to yell at each other and vented their individual grief/anger out of earshot. And I have respect for them for that.

6 years have passed since then and life has settled into routine. My eldest daughter is well adjusted to the situation and generally is fairly egocentric as most teenagers are, my son is still known to get upset. This confuses him as he loves his Dad and my new partner of 3 years and knows that without divorce he wouldn't have them both (oh and 2 lots of christmas presents/birthday presents/pocket money!), but it still remains difficult to see him struggle occasionally with the concept that his Mum and Dad will never be back together.

Divorcing is never easy this is true, but the aftermath is so much harder. Children are intelligent, they work things out for themselves if you are not honest, but often their answers are skewed. Talk to them, acknowlege their feelings, tell them that they are allowed to be angry/sad/scared, cut them some slack but don't shower them with gifts. Love them the same as always and they will be fine.