As the couple, who have a one-year-old son, reveal their news, Prudence Wade talks to a relationship expert about tackling the tricky transition.
Break-ups are never easy, and things are complicated further if young children are involved.
And this is the case whether you’re a regular Joe or high-profile celebrity – such as Cheryl and Liam Payne, who have just revealed they are calling it quits on their two-and-a-half-year relationship. Their son, Bear, was born in March 2017.
Announcing the news, the two posted nearly identical messages on Twitter, saying: “We still have so much love for each other as a family. Bear is our world and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together.”
So how can couples tackle this tricky transition? We spoke to Verity Hogan, relationship expert at eharmony.co.uk, to get her tips on how to navigate the worrisome waters of splitting up when you have young children to consider…
Keep animosity away
“Regardless of the circumstances of your break-up, try to keep any anger or animosity you feel towards your ex away from your child. You may not think small children will pick up on passive aggressive comments or whispered arguments, but they will,” says Hogan.
“If that means arranging for a friend or family member to be present at drop off/pick-up times, or allocating specific times when you can meet up outside of the home to discuss details of your separation, then it’s a sacrifice worth making.”
Take time for yourself
“One of the hardest things about going through a break-up when you have small children is that you don’t have the space to grieve. Your children should always come first, but suppressing your emotions will undoubtedly create an unhealthy atmosphere at home,” Hogan continues.
“Let friends and family know that you’ll need more support for a while and take the opportunity to spend time away from your child to recover. When you’re away, let yourself wallow, scream, cry, or anything else that helps you heal – it’ll make it easier to control your emotions when you’re back at home.”
Explain in terms they’ll understand
“It’s important to be honest with your children but also not to overwhelm them. Take their age into account when choosing what to share.
“It may be easier to communicate the situation in smaller chunks, rather than one large conversation that could cause undue distress,” Hogan suggests. “Be prepared for a range of reactions – tears, confusion, anger, tantrums are all reasonable responses that you may have to deal with.”
Maintain as much consistency as possible
“When your children are small, consistency is everything. Consider whether you and your ex-partner could operate a ‘bird’s nest’ custody model, where the children stay in one house and each parent moves in and out. This will give children the consistency they need and avoid stresses of a new environment, missing a favourite toy, or being unable to sleep in a new bed.
“If this is not possible, try not to disrupt your children’s routine,” Hogan advises. “Whether you or your ex has custody that day, maintain the same bedtime routine, enforce the same rules, and carry toys and clothes from house to house as much as possible.”