Cheryl and Liam Payne announced their break-up on social media on Sunday evening in separate tweets. The couple, who have a one-year-old son, Bear, said the decision was a difficult one. “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,” Cheryl tweeted.
Navigating the emotional and practical sides of separation can be more difficult when you’re talking about a family rather than a couple.
Carrie-Anne Roberts, 28, who split from her then-boyfriend Hus when their son, River, was six months old, said the key is taking baby steps.
Roberts, whose son is now three, said the couple had to put the ground work in from the very beginning: “I wanted us to at some point in the future have a healthy, happy co-parenting relationship that we can be proud of and set the best example possible regardless of us being separated.”
In terms of advice for others, Roberts said: “Showing understanding while new roles are being established (throw your ego in the bin right now!), forgiving each other when you get angry or unreasonable (because it will undoubtedly happen) and knowing that any hurt or resentment is temporary, is key to building a solid foundation moving forward.
“Everyone wants a ‘graceful exit’, but it’s more than ok for either of you to go off course from time to time. Allow each other to make mistakes.”
June Brogan, area manager at relationships charity Relate, said often during a break-up people are in two different spaces – one may have initiated the break-up, while the other will be in “pre-contemplation state”, where they haven’t considered being on their own. This makes the situation extremely vulnerable emotionally.
There are also lots of practical things to consider, Brogan explained, including finances, living situation, care for the child, perhaps even navigating new partners. But discussions about your relationship are best left for when your child is out of sight – no matter how young they are.
“You have to keep your feelings and your discussion about your ex away from the child. I’m not saying they should never see their parents emotional, but children, even babies, pick up stress and emotionally traumatic conversations. The older the child, the more they will pick up,” she said.
Ultimately, she said: “Separate with as much love as possible. You have to remember that you did really love that person at some stage. You will always have the connection with them because of the child. You will live down the road or around the corner, you’ll see them at school gate or take the child to doctor together. Your paths are going cross.”
There is undoubtedly a lot to think about when you have a child with the person you’re separating from, so in order to stop yourself feeling overwhelmed Faye Goldman, head of membership at single parents charity Gingerbread, agrees with Roberts’ insight that taking things one step at a time is vital.
“It can be difficult to know where to begin,” she said. “There are some actions to take straight away, like making sure you and your children are safe and sorting out your housing and immediate finances. After that, you’ll need to think about arrangements for your children to see their other parent and for child maintenance.
“We know that emotions run high and it can be a very difficult time. Take things one step at a time, and look at Gingerbread’s website for information and support, including practical tips and guidance, an online forum and links to local groups where you can connect with other people going through the same thing.”