Dear Savvy Auntie,

After three years, the "boy" and I are no longer together.

I'm heartbroken and he's devastated. It's hard to leave a relationship with so much love, but sometimes things don't work out. While I must deal with my own feelings, there are little ones involved too.

The harder part is that he was "uncle" to my nieces and my Godchildren and I was an ABC to his kids. His children are severely autistic and so explaining to them what happened isn't really an option. They won't ever ask about me.

But how do you explain to a 2-year-old, who has learned to say uncle, why "Uncle" isn't around? How do you explain to a 5-year-old that his buddy won't be coming to his birthday party after all? Thankfully, all these kids come from homes where the parents are still married. However, that means the idea of people leaving, isn't something they've ever been exposed to.

Heartbroken Auntie

Dear Heartbroken Auntie,

You are so on target…you must deal with your own feelings so you can give the kids a “clean” explanation.  If not, you will project your feelings on them. By calling him “the boy” it suggests you are very angry and belittling of this man.

You can rest assured that young children are adaptable, flexible, and have honest emotions. Therefore, tell them simply that (his name) and you had grown-up problems, you tried to work them out and couldn’t, so you decided to stop being together for now. Remind them that you both love them and you will always work out any problems with them.
Answer any questions briefly and, if necessary, say “we can talk more another time.” Don’t be afraid to be teary, as it is a sad situation and it is fine for them to see this. They may be nonplussed and ask for a cookie; say if you have any questions later we can talk about it again.

Although this is their first experience of this nature, you can establish a very good example, as it won’t be their last.

My sympathies,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Photo: Milkos ,

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