Explaining separation to a 3 year old?

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    My ex and I are separating, after 12 years together (since I was age 16!!) and 2 children – age 3 (4 in September) and 6 months.


    Things hadn’t been great for years, but I kind of soldiered on and assumed this was my life now and maybe one day things would improve… But they never did and I had enough and ended it. Though it was me who instigated it, we both agreed we’d drifted massively and things weren’t great. However my reasons were due to emotional abuse and gaslighting from him. Terms that were incredibly hard for me to come to terms with, but it took that realisation and a step back, to see the relationship wasn’t healthy and I was so worn down and drained from it.


    We’d discussed separation whilst I was pregnant with our second daughter, but it wasn’t until she was a month old that we officially decided. Then lockdown happened! So we’ve been living together the whole time.


    Ironically we probably get on better now as friends and parents to our children, but it’s been an incredibly tough 6 months.


    It’s taken me a long time to set up financial security (now on universal credit so I’ll be able to afford life for myself and the girls), and only recently managed to sort a rental for us to move into.


    We haven’t explained anything to our 3 year old yet. We didn’t think there would be much point until everything was set up and the move was fairly imminent. She’s an incredibly bright little girl, and reads emotions and feelings very well. She may have picked up that things are different (my ex and I sleep in separate rooms and of course aren’t affectionate with each other anymore, for example) but life to her seems pretty much the same otherwise.


    I was wondering if anyone had been through a similar situation? How did you tackle it with your kids, especially if they were a similar age to mine?


    Of course no need to explain to our 6 month old, but with eldest I’m unsure how to do it… Was thinking trying to make it as positive as possible? Explain we’re separating, but obviously avoid details, perhaps say we will live in different houses so she will have some mummy time and then some daddy time?? Any ideas or advice?


    We are of course dreading it as her world will be turned upside down 🙁 but I hope by researching it now we can approach it as best we can.


    Really appreciate any advice! I’m new to the forum but have found it very helpful and often comforting so far ❤️ also apologies for the length of this!!


    #42449 Report


    Hi thwre

    I wish you the best of luck! Really do. My daughter was 3 when we split. My son was nearly 5 …

    My 5 year old took it worse because his awareness of what was entailed was that much greater. I won’t lie … it hurt. Explaining it more was better than dressing it up as something that they might struggle with …. by that I mean that when I moved i tried saying that I was staying at our other house (had an empty property) but this confused more than helped …

    In terms of my 3yo she took it well and has adapted. She doesn’t like drop offs too much but she views time with each in a super positive way. My eldest struggled with that more … got better … and sometimes doesn’t like it. I can’t say there’s a good way but making sure that the both of you are saying the same thing and staying as positive as you can about it then it will help. And the truth. That makes a big diff. I learnt to not dress things up too much.

    Stay positive about the time each of you have with them … and celebrate that as much as you did before. I do that and it helps them hugely. I’m her biggest advocate and support everything they do, as I did before.

    Anyway, good luck again! Happy to help



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