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Whether you're divorcing a spouse, getting your marriage annulled or breaking up with your partner, getting over a long-term relationship can be difficult. If you have children with your partner, healing your emotional wounds is often all the more challenging. Instead of thinking only about your own needs and emotions, you'll also need to stay strong for your children and help them work through their feelings. That said, getting over a long-term relationship is possible as long as you remain positive.
Make Room for Emotions
Allow yourself to feel anger, fear, sadness, guilt or whatever emotions you're experiencing associated with the end of your relationship. However, don't bad mouth your ex in front of the kids. Keep the harsh words that you might want to say about your former romantic partner to yourself or express them in front of another adult, such as your sibling or a therapist. Your kids are already going through a difficult time. Badmouthing your ex makes your kids feel like they have to choose sides.
Make Decisions to Finalize the Split
Finalize any loose ends in your relationship, such as dividing up assets or taking care of debts, away from the children. Avoid fighting or bickering about these types of issues in the presence of the kids. If you can't agree on the decisions, consider using a mediator to help, so things don't get messy and heated.
Reach Out for Support
Ask for help from friends, relatives and close neighbors. Enlist the people who are close to you to help out with childcare tasks, running errands or carpooling to free up your time so you can work on your own issues. Connect with your friends and relatives. For example, invite a friend and her kids to have lunch with you and your kids, ask your parents to come over to spend a weekend, or take the kids shopping with their aunt and cousins.
Give Yourself Time
Accept that it will take time for both you and your children to get over your long-term relationship. Avoid rushing yourself or your children to accept the end of your relationship. You all have the right to grieve the loss for as long as it takes.
Avoid jumping into a new relationship. Although it's tempting to heal a broken heart with a new romance, your kids likely won't be ready to see you with someone other than their dad right away. Ideally, you should try to wait for at least six months to pass after your separation before introducing your children to a new partner or date.
Keep Things Amicable
Be cooperative with your ex when it comes to a visitation schedule that meets everyone's needs. Seek professional mediation if you and your ex can't agree on certain points. Do not try to withhold visitation because you are still angry with your ex. Consider using a friend or relative as part of the drop off and pick up process for visitation if you and your ex can't get along in front of the children.
Create a Consistent Routine
Keep your daily life consistent. Give yourself and your children a sense of comfort and security in a daily schedule that doesn't change much from the schedule you had prior to the separation. For example, continue going to work every day, taking your children to extracurricular activities and keeping bedtimes the same as they were when you were with your ex. That consistency gives your kids a sense of stability at a time when their lives are turning upside down.
Help Your Kids With the Transition
Be prepared to answer questions rationally and honestly. Your children might ask what will happen in the future when it comes to holidays, school or living situations. Although you may not want to think about spending holidays without your spouse, you'll need to put on a brave face for your kids and answer them honestly. Make it clear that the split has nothing to do with the kids and that both parents love them unconditionally. Your children need reassurance that they are loved and will be safe.
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- Be prepared to answer questions rationally when your children ask what will happen in the future when it comes to holidays, school or living situations. Although you may not want to think about spending holidays without your spouse, you'll need to put on a brave face for your kids and answer them honesty.
- Consider using a friend or relative as part of the drop off and pick up process for visitation if you and your ex can't get along in front of the children.
- Don't break down in front of the kids. Wait until after they go to bed or when you are with a friend or therapist.
- Avoid jumping in to a new relationship. Although it's tempting to heal a broken heart with a new romance, your kids likely won't be ready to see you with someone other than their dad right away. Ideally, you should try to wait for at least six months to pass after your separation before introducing your children to a new partner or date, notes HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.
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