The holidays can be stressful enough, but trying to navigate the best way to deal with an impending separation right around the holidays can feel like too much stress to bear for anyone. When children are involved, this greatly complicates things, and leaves parents wanting to deal with the situation in the best way possible, and with putting their children's needs above all else. Since this is a common issue, and a very stressful one, I thought I would offer some suggestions on how to steer through this difficult situation.
While you may feel like you do not want to spend another day with your partner, it is likely that the idea of separation and divorce has been looming for quite some time. So, consider how long you have been working towards this decision when you consider the difference a few weeks could make in your child's life. Letting your child know that you will be splitting up right at the holidays, will cause your child to associate the holiday season this year, and for years to come, with the end of your marriage and their family as they know it. Unless it is impossible, wait until the new year, and let them enjoy their holiday season, and these last wonderful memories of you as a complete family unit. If you look at the holidays as being about their needs above all else, it will help you to make it through them as well.
Do not tell them on December 26th, as this will make them think that all the wonderful holiday experiences and memories that they created were fake and forced. Waiting just another week will allow them to truly enjoy the holiday and the memories, and will not add that concern and hurt to what is going to be a difficult situation for all of you. Once the new year arrives, you can sit your child down and tell them how much you love them, how this is not their fault, and that this will not change how either of you feel about them.
Another thought is to handle this with an unbiased third party. Someone like a pediatric psychologist, who can help support each of you and your children through this difficult conversation. They are also a tremendous resource for your children to continue to see in the early days of your separation, as this allows them a private and safe space to talk about their thoughts and feelings that they may not feel comfortable talking to their parents about. This professional can really help to support them, normalize their thoughts and feelings, and offer guidance on how to adjust to their new way of life. Be supportive of this relationship and this help, as this is about getting them all the help and support they could need.
It is also an excellent idea for both of you to visit with this professional before you all meet together, and before you break the news. They can offer you some wonderful suggestions and pointers, and you can all come up with a plan together, and be certain everyone is on the same page. This will make your children feel stable, cared for, and that there is some consistency despite the major changes happening in their lives.
Separation and divorce are never easy, especially when children are involved, and especially not around the holidays. However, hopefully with these tips and thoughts, the process can be a little less painful on all involved, and everyone will feel as if they have done right by each other, and more importantly, by their children. Children are always the biggest concern for parents when they decide to end a marriage, so having a guide and some support helps to make a very difficult choice and process a little easier for all involved.