How to Tell 3 & 5 Year Old That Parents Are Getting Separated

Updated on January 08, 2011
T.F. asks from Forest Hills, NY
7 answers

My hubby has recently decided that he wants to live within walking distance of us, but in his own apt. Says he loves me, but is not "in love" with me, "it's not you, it's me," etc, etc. The kids don't know there's a problem between us because we almost never argue.
He wants to spend a lot of time at the house, but live in his own place (but probably they will spend every other weekend sleeping at his place). (He's totally unwilling to go to counseling & has no interest in reconciling).

My question is how/what do we tell them? I don't know how we can do it in a way that they won't feel rejected by their father and that he doesn't want to live with them. I know they will both ask why is daddy sleeping somewhere else, they ask "why" about everything.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Atlanta on

Hi T.,

So sorry you are going through this.....the bottom line is your husband is rejecting them, you and I both know it. The kids will know it too. I have no patience for men that throw those lines around. My sister went through this years back, my best friend is going through it now. It's like they read the same manual....

There is absolutely no way for them to feel secure when Daddy is moving out. Daddy needs to know that and take responsibility. Daddy needs to grow up. Daddy needs to tell them he's leaving and you need to reassure them that YOU will never leave them. You are going to be picking up the pieces for years to come. My nephews are 42 and 39 and they still have issues with how their Dad can share that with your husband...It affects every part of their life. If he loves them, he won't leave. That being said, I'm sure he will leave.

To answer your question, Daddy needs to tell them that he's leaving but YOU need to tell them, whether now or at some point later, that Daddy doesn't really understand how love works. Right now, just give them the facts...Daddy wants to live down the street. When they ask why, tell them to ask their Daddy because you don't understand either. They need to know that this is not normal and it is not supposed to be understood. Don't let them feel like they are stupid because they can't understand. That was one thing that my nephew told me he dealt with often in his life. At three and five, they will probably hear you but not really get it until he's gone and then questions will come up as they think of them. Your job is simply to be honest without giving them more information than they can handle.

T., I know this is terribly hard for you. God bless you in everything you do.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm truly sorry about your seperation, but you have to stay strong and don't make any negative comments to your children. I'd say keep a log of day-to-day things that occur between you and your husband. One day your childen may want to read this so they know where you, and your husband stood in their lives. A friend literally lost contact with his children, because the mom bad mouthed him to the children. As kids got older they wanted no part of their dad's lives. The many times he tried to explain to them the real situation between the parents, it was too late. The children were brainwashed and to this day they are bitter towards him. Just keep things on friendly terms between all of you. Good luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Well, if you honestly think that it's going to stay friendly and pleasant between you and your husband through the process than my advice is just to give them the information they need to know what's happening, but don't involve them in things that are in the planning phase.

Once your husband has his new apartment, the four of you should go there and you can all show the boys around and explain that this is Daddy's new apartment. Show them where they're room will be etc. Beyond that, answer the questions they ask.

You don't need to explain separation, that's an adult issue. They won't think their dad is leaving them unless he actually does leave them. If he continues to be in their day to day lives, I doubt it'll be much of an issue for them.

The tricky part is to keep your own feeling of rejection out of your children's psyche.

Good luck through this process. I know it's tough.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

There isn't a way to make them feel okay about this. Its not okay. They are being rejected by their father. He promised to be the head of this family until he dies and now he's giving some lame excuse as to why he's changed his mind. In short he's a selfish brat and someone should slap him.
That being said, make him be his own bad guy. Let him look into the eyes of those beautiful children and tell them he's leaving because he's no "in love" anymore. Being in love is a choice, not a feeling. He's destroying the kids, you be there to pick up the pieces.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would check out all the childrens books from the local library about divorced families and read them and discuss them. Buy your favorites as this will need to be discussed for YEARS and the little one wont really understand at first, Get the Fred Roger;s book about divorce, he always did the best job at explaining things in kid language! I feel my mistake was in discussing the divorce with my kids for a few years and then thinking it was done, I remarried, they had a great stepfather and we didnt need to discuss it unless the kids brought it up. When they grew up I found out they still had issues with their father abandoning them. Hopefully your kids will get lots of time with their father I think it's a great sign he wants to live close. Encourage him to stay in close contact, attend school events etc etc not to help him but for your kid's sake,Men can be children, and you need to be the adult. lay it on thick with you're great with the kids they adore you and want more time with you. I wonder if there are some adult children of divorce out there who didn't feel abandoned by one parent and could advise how it is done ??? Also pretend this isnt breaking your heart. Take care of your self and your happiness as that will go a long way in helping your children adjust. You are better off getting rid of this immature man now while you're young! Use the time the kids are with their dad to have fun with your girlfriends and buy yourself new clothes and start new hobbies! Eventually (no hurry -you need to be by yourself for a while) you will find a real grown up man to share your life with. Remind yourself you're better off without him-cuz you probably are! Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I have no idea.

But a friend's Sister-In-Law (former sister in law), did that. Just one day said she's moving out, wasn't in love with her husband... and moved, like 1 street down from their house.
They have a child, then 4 years old. And well, she is not a real well adjusted child. But... the Mom was of no help. The Dad... is the one that has had to... pick up all the loose ends... and do everything, for their daughter. While the Mom... just does whatever she wants, showing up or not... leading a very separate independent, life. Even if just living ONE street away.

Child Counseling... also greatly helped, another friend of ours, with her kids, in adjusting to their divorce. Without the Counseling, of her 3-6 year old children... she said they probably would have not adjusted well. Since she alone.... was at a loss for how to help them, by herself.

Plan... with your Ex, even if in writing... WHAT he will do to participate in his children's lives.... have any kind of consistency... and regularity. Kids need that....

I really don't know.... but perhaps, talk with a Professional... about HOW to best transition your kids... to this. Along with your Husband....



answers from New York on

I am divorcing my husband. My daughter is 3 and a half. I am divorcing him b/c he is negative and abusive, both physically and verberally. I had doubts about him when I married him and thought about leaving him right before I became pregnant and, although he wanted a child so badly, he has done nothing but become meaner to me - AND the way he treats our daughter is not at all healthy. I've remained with him all this time basically b/c I didn't have the heart or know how to explain it all to our daughter but the longer I wait, the more I realize, it's only getting worse. I have no real advice for you - only that I can say I am going through the same thing of fearing how to explain it to a 3 yr. old. I will most likely see a psychologist for advice. I don't think there is an easy way or a right way. Just be patient, kind and understanding to your little ones and know that these things do happen and you will get through it.

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