Navigating a Breakup Involving Kids

A breakup involving kids is difficult. But is it possible to break off your love interest & stay committed to their children at the same time? 

At Kelleher International, we know a breakup involving kids is never easy. And calling it quits with a partner whose children you adore can be one of the toughest decisions to make. 

If you find yourself in a breakup involving kids, there are ways you can make the transition as supportive as possible for those children you love as your own.

Telling the Kids

Once you and your partner are clear that ending the relationship is the best decision, it’s essential to collectively make a plan to share the news with the children. Be mindful of the set and setting and be willing to tell the kids as a unified front. 

Kelleher matchmaker Pam Nolen suggests, “Thoughtfully make a plan with the parent you are breaking up with about how and when you will tell their kids. Don’t discount the love and respect you must hold for yourself and soon-to-be ex-partner during this exercise. Of course, the needs and emotions of the children should come first. And it’s critical they know it’s not their fault.”

Whether or not you’ve been betrayed by your partner, it’s critical to lead by example. The children are noticing everything during this confusing time, so show grace throughout the transition. Don’t say unkind or vicious things about their parent(s) – especially if you’d like a chance at continuing your relationship with the kids post-breakup.

Prepare For the Next Chapter

A breakup involving kids can bring up more questions than answers. And one difficult question to grapple with is whether or not it’s okay to continue a relationship with your ex-partner’s children.

“This can be a sensitive question in the early stages of the breakup, especially if there’s been infidelity,” explains Kelleher matchmaker Patty Russell. “It’s certainly a case by case basis, but I’ve seen amicable situations develop after the initial drama subsides.”

It’s imperative to show reverence for time and not push the issue. Ultimately it is up to the parent to decide the fate of your relationship with their children – at least until the kids are grown and can make their own decisions.

Pam suggests, “Be prepared for a very emotional time processing the feelings of disconnection you’ll experience after the split. During this limbo, when you’re not certain you’ll see the children again, consider talk therapy. Treat this situation like you would any other great loss in your life.”

Accept the Parent’s Decision

The toughest part of a breakup involving kids you love is the acknowledgment that you may be forced to break up with them, too. 

“It’s important to respect whatever plan the parent decides. Don’t invite yourself back into the kids’ lives without an okay to do so,” warns Pam. “If you do have a green light to continue the relationship, accept that the relationship will look and feel differently. And that it might change again when the parent settles down with a new partner.”

Make sure to acknowledge your own feelings as your relationship transitions through the breakup involving kids you adore. If it’s too painful initially, give yourself time and space to process. And be mindful of the energy between you and the ex.

Kelleher matchmaker Lynn Allen shares her experience. “It can work well continuing a mentorship or friendship with the children if there is a “love fest” between all of the involved parental figures. However, if one of the parents is negative or manipulative, it can be a disaster. In that case, it’s best to allow the kids to decide the sort of relationship they want with you when they get older.” 

Give It Time

Time heals all wounds. But until you get there, it’s essential to keep yourself in a routine and surrounded by uplifting, supportive people. Don’t allow the kids to become a pawn between you and your ex.

Lynn adds, “Every child deserves love and attention from all the adults in their lives. And like every relationship in life, you have to earn the respect of others to have a solid, loving friendship that lasts – even if they’re only eight-years-old.”

Treat your relationship with your ex and their children with the utmost respect. Even if things ended badly, always be willing to take the high road. This will leave a lasting impression on the kids you’re sad to lose. And leave the door open for them to bond with you in a different way moving forward.

A breakup involving kids is going to be difficult no matter what. 

So remember that these young, impressionable souls are watching you. Whether you know it or not, your actions are showing them what’s acceptable in a relationship, how to be in one, and how to end one. Emulate the kind of grown-up you’d like them to become.

Please share your experience or advice on handling a breakup involving kids with the Kelleher community in the comments section below.