Status sexual communication


My boyfriend’s idea of seduction is to wake me up and display his huge boner. I’m delighted to be getting some but do wish for a little less of the macho lead-in. Any suggestions?


You clearly enjoy being sexual with your partner and appreciate his attention. But you need to talk. Sleepy sex can be a lovely part of a varied sexual repertoire, but not everyone wants it on a regular basis. The “waker” will usually get their needs met as they will already be turned on before they involve the “wakee”, and are often ready to go. This can mean that foreplay or making an effort slide down the priority list.

Is sleepy sex something you want, and if so, how often? presuming it is, the conversation needs to focus on how he can warm you up. Take time to imagine what would work, remembering that you probably won’t be in the mood for massive amounts of action.

Tell him you’d like him to gently wake you with things that turn you on. Sleepy sex is often best approached softly, slowly and sensuously when it’s a woman being woken. She’ll need physically to lubricate and mentally to become aroused in order to enjoy penetration. (if you’re aiming for penetration)

He may need to begin by kissing your neck and whispering sexy loving things in your ear. If he’s good with his hands/mouth, maybe he could wake you with some delicious touch rather than a baton in the back. Always have some good quality lubrication in case you need it.



My husband won’t touch me anymore and has told me to get out of the way of the TV when I tried to seduce him with sexy underwear. I was mortified and have given up. I’m so alone and feel so lonely. I don’t know what happened. He won’t talk to me.


I’m so sorry you’re in this lonely place. It sounds like you’re being stonewalled by your husband, making dialogue impossible. Stonewalling is often a coping mechanism used by those who don’t know how to communicate and are unable to find a way forward.

While everyone is entitled to go through low patches and to lose their libido, it’s not okay to withdraw all communication and affection from your partner, and it’s not okay to be mean.
Some people shut down completely when struggling because they can’t explain what’s wrong and they don’t know what to do, while some stonewall their partner but remain open to others.

It’s important that your husband knows he’s stonewalling you and how hurtful it is, and it’s particularly important if you have children on the receiving end too. It also makes no sense to have him in the driving seat when it appears clear that he’s stuck. It’s time for you to take the wheel and suggest something new.

The ideal would be for both of you to attend therapy, either together or separately, but if he won’t go, then go on your own. Be clear and honest about what you need, want and won’t accept. You can’t control or force him, just give him your truth and let him decide what he wants to do about it. If you want intimacy you may need to hear some hard truths too before repair can happen. Sometimes partners choose to change, and sometimes they don’t.

In the mean-time, adjust your focus from him to you. Find ways to strengthen and pamper yourself and spend time with people who make you feel good, and now would be a great time for lots of self-loving (masturbation). Remind yourself of your sexiness!



When my girlfriend and I have a fight she refuses to let me touch her for days after even though we’ve made up. She sometimes even sleeps in the spare room. How can I change this?


  • Do you notice a difference in how she behaves depending on what you fight over?
  • Is this all the time no matter what the fight is about?
  • Does it only happen when the fight is of certain significance?
  • Do you find yourselves fighting over the same things repeatedly?
  • Is there a winner?
  • Is there a pattern to your fights?
  • How do you make up?

The answers to these questions could give you some vital insight and clues as to how to rectify the situation.

It sounds like she is not finished with the fight for some reason, even if you are. Is it possible that she isn’t satisfied with the outcome? Does she feel rail-roaded or unheard? Does she feel shut down or patronised?

Are you trying to touch her intimately before she’s had time to adjust to the fight being over?

After a fight, many men find being sexual gives them a feeling of connection and reassurance but many women need to feel connected and reassured in order to want to be sexual. There’s nothing wrong with either approach but if you are different, it can lead to difficulties. Men get labelled as always sexualising everything, and women as withholding. But perhaps both are just wanting to feel close and yet they find different ways to get there.

Can you talk to her when you’re not fighting? While most people avoid difficult conversations when feeling close, it’s better than when you’re already angry or hurt. Introduce the topic by saying you’d like to see if there’s a better way to make up as you miss her. Own your own behaviour so all the focus isn’t on hers. Ask her what she needs to recover quicker. What can you do differently? She may not have the answer to that so you might need to be patient and tease it out with her, remembering she may feel vulnerable even talking about it. Go slow, and stay curious. Don’t ask the questions unless you’re willing to hear the answers and make some changes.



Status loss of desire


Dear Emily,
I’m a 27-year old woman and am living with my boyfriend for two years now. We’ve been together three years. In the last year, my sex drive has nearly disappeared. I can’t tell if it’s because there’s something wrong with me, or I’m not attracted to him anymore. I still think he’s handsome but when he touches me now, I just stiffen and try to avoid any contact that could lead to sex.


There are lots of possible causes for your lowered desire, so here are a few things to check.

Have you started taking a contraceptive pill in the last year?
Some pills kill libido and can prevent a woman from lubricating naturally (which leads to painful sex). Ask your doctor for a different form of contraception such as the Nuva Ring.

Are you taking medications such as anti-depressants, or pain medication?
SSRI’s and opiates can be desire destroyers. Sometimes it’s a balancing act to find a way to control pain/depression and maintain a sex drive. Don’t settle. If your doctor won’t explore other options with you, go to a different doctor. There may be an alternative, but unfortunately sometimes there isn’t.

How’s your general health and stress levels?
If you’re constantly tired, over-worked, worried and stressed, you may be producing too much cortisol and adrenaline. They dampen testosterone which is vital for libido in both men and women. With fatigue, people often turn to caffeine and sugar for a boost. The bad news is, an overload of these may also lower libido due to causing hormonal imbalances.

Do you feel attractive, interesting and valued by your partner?
Once the “honeymoon” period ends (between 6 months and two years), and partners begin to feel comfortable with each other, and their hormones are no longer racing, there can be a gap where effort needs to now be made. Women tend not to just need foreplay in bed, but throughout the day. I call it foreplay, for foreplay, for sex. This form of foreplay is not sexual and may not be physical. It’s when her partner shows her that he desires all of her, and not just her body.

Do you masturbate?
Women who masturbate tend to have higher sex drives, more confidence, and are more orgasmic with partners. However it’s not uncommon for people to stop masturbating once in a relationship as they want to rely solely on their partner for pleasure. It seems to me to be a misguided idea of romantic love. Some people even think of it as almost cheating.

Do you enjoy sex when you have it?
Again, once the honeymoon period is over, it’s time to put in some effort and check that the techniques that worked a dream at the start, are still working. Often they aren’t. With high levels of sex hormones racing through our veins, at the start, the mere thought of seeing our lover can be enough to excite us. But as the hormones return to normal, it’s usual for people to need more, and different kinds of touch. Females tend to need more reminders through the day that they are desired. Are you getting enough of what you need to be turned on? When you are sexual, is it what you want and need?



Why do women go from exciting to boring in bed? We used to have amazing sex with loads of positions. Now she only wants missionary position in bed, and even then she says she’s not in the mood about half the time.


In the first stage of most relationships, everything is new and exciting. Our hormones are racing, so attraction, desire and arousal seem natural and effortless. Trying lots of positions may be a real turn on for both partners but it’s normal that over time, you’ll find a favourite. Have you asked your partner why she only wants missionary position and why only half the time?
Maybe she finds it hard to feel close and connected to you during sex in certain positions. The sexual act itself doesn’t bring intimacy for many women, whereas it can for me. She may want face-to-face sex so she can look in your eyes and kiss you, and see your body. She may like the angle of the penetration in missionary – many women do. She may find that changing positions breaks her rhythm. While men tend to be able to change positions and maintain their arousal, if a woman is enjoying a certain motion, changing it can often ruin her arousal and she has to start again.

You could be getting different things from sex. While you enjoy changing positions, she might enjoy feeling close. Many women report that they’d prefer less positions and more time spent on building their pleasure (which often means staying put). She may wish to explore the different ways sex can make her feel emotionally and energetically, rather than physically. I think both ways are important and valid. It’s worth having a really good chat with her about this with an open mind. There may be lots to learn from sticking to one position for a while, and exploring what’s possible.

Another reason she may be insisting on one position is to counter your demands for numerous positions. Maybe she feels she did it your way for ages and she wants you to listen to her needs. If you can do that, and tell her you’re doing it because her needs are important to you, she may feel more open to alternatives. But not straight away.

The final thing to check is how you’re approaching her for sex. It sounds like you do most of the initiating and are only successful 50% of the time. If you’re together more than six months, she may need a new approach. Her hormones aren’t racing the same so she needs more time to get in the mood. Remember to romance her, complement her and show interest in her as a person, not just sexually. Try taking penetration off the cards for a few weeks and learn how to pleasure each other in other ways. This can be a great way to re-connect.



My partner and I have been together for six years and I’ve always wanted way more sex than he does. I was okay with this to begin with but now the disparity makes me anxious when I approach him for sex because I don’t know if I will be rejected or not – I want sex about twice a week where as he is okay with twice a month. I’ve found myself becoming much shyer around other men over the years and definitely think I’ve lost confidence in my own attractiveness as a woman


What a painful situation you’re in. The first thing to recognise is that desire discrepancy is to be expected. It’s pretty impossible for two different people to have the exact same levels of desire all the time, and while you may have higher desire now, it could alternate over time. Once you recognise this fact, it can become easier to cope with any change.

However, it sounds as though the disparity has existed since you first got together. Possibly there was a “honeymoon” period where it was less obvious, but you’ve been living with this for a long time. Do you talk to each other about it? Have you been able to learn what your partner feels about the difference?

The best place to start is with a loving and frank dialogue to help both of you understand the situation better.

Some useful questions could be:
Has your partner noticed a drop in his libido over the years?
Does he masturbate? (it’s a healthy thing for him to do, but if he’s doing it a lot more than being intimate with you, it may need tweaking)
Does he enjoy being sexual with you/alone?
What does he like about each?

How is his general health? How is your relationship apart from sex?

Time your conversations and don’t go over about 20 minutes until you get used to talking. It can be exhausting and stressful if you’re not used to it.

Men are often expected to have higher desire levels than women, and the reasons for this are too complicated and numerous to explore here. But the result of that expectation is that men can feel embarrassed or defensive when they’re the lower desire partner, and can be hurtful and rejecting to cover their feelings.

The female partner will often take their partner’s low desire personally, particularly if they feel rejected, and over time is likely to lose confidence. Underneath the loss of confidence, there may be an unhelpful belief that “if I was attractive enough, my male partner would fancy me more”. But it’s rarely that simple, because – shock horror! Men aren’t the sex-mad simpletons they’re portrayed to be, and are as susceptible to fatigue, stress, hormone imbalances, relational worries and low confidence, as women.

It’s important to know that there’s nothing wrong with either of you, or your levels of desire. His libido may not be a sign of anything worrying and he may be very happy with it. If that’s the case, it’s back to you and how you can look after your own needs in between sexy times with your partner.

Get yourself a lovely sex toy, some yummy lube, and carve out a bit of time to make love to yourself. Remember that your attractiveness to others has nothing to do with your partners libido, and orgasmic women tend to feel better about themselves and more attractive too. You deserve to enjoy yourself sexually as much as you want/need, but you may not get to do that with your partner every time.



Status connecting & reconnecting


I’m a very busy working mother of three. My husband and I have no time together. We slump into bed exhausted and seem to have lost our libido. How do we get it back?


This is such a common problem.

One thing busy couples tend to miss is spontaneity and passion. Some worry that when this goes it’s a sign their relationship is in trouble. But this is a normal development for couples with busy lives and children. Some couples find ways to stay connected but many just hope and expect the time, energy and motivation to appear miraculously.

It might not sound romantic but what’s really needed is planning. Think about the planning and scheduling needed to ensure your children are clean, fed, safe and rested. Then add school, , play-dates, quality time with you and all the rest. Then there’s the shopping and housework, and if you’ave any time left, there’s your own socialising, exercise and self-care. That’s all before fitting a job in there. All these things have to be prioritised and planned. If intimacy isn’t on the list, it won’t get a lookin. And if you plan it for last thing at night, you’ll be too tired.

Get out your diaries and schedule some time alone without devices or talk of domestic issues. Use the time to remember why you fell in love and what you like about each other now. Maybe you can risk being vulnerable by talking about deeper feelings, desires, disappointments, fears. A really great approach to these dates is to agree to meet as strangers. Choose to leave the history and baggage at home and allow room for not knowing everything about each other. Curiosity is sexy and intimate. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Try this without being defensive. You can plan adventures without worrying too much if they’ll ever happen. It takes you out of your exhaustion and into a creative space where your imagination is working and you’re learning about each other again.

At home, check just how conducive your bedtimes are to intimacy. If you have little ones sleeping in bed with you, you may need to either move them out (depending on age etc.) or find more inventive ways to connect. A passionate snog behind the utility room door and a quick grope as you put away the shopping can be pretty exciting if you’re both open to it.

Get your kit off! Sleeping naked has a magical effect for many. Cuddle and caress each other. Hold each other in a loving embrace and look into each other’s eyes. Why do you love each other? What do you love about being naked together? Say the words. Don’t assume your partner knows. This may be all you have energy for sometimes, so it’s important to allow for variety when connecting.

Agree to be sexual with each other without always expecting full penetration, which can feel daunting for tired people. What about gifting some good loving to each other? A little bit of oral or masturbation? What about masturbating yourselves while kissing and staying close? Sexual energy can be shared and enjoyed in many ways if you are open to options.

I’ve seen fantastic fun had by couples who develop their own code around being sexual so they can plan and discuss things in front of their kids. It’s playful and totally appropriate and takes away a limitation. I know someone who refers to masturbation as “polishing her jelly tot”. It’s not too difficult to hear her partner offering to do some polishing later tonight or her saying how well he did it last night.

When it comes to having sex with the same person for more than ten years, how do you advise people to keep it interesting?

Talk, talk, talk. Share about what you like now. Remember we are organic creatures, constantly changing which means that our sexual tastes and desires will also change over time. Don’t take your own or your partner’s sexual desires for granted. Be curious and try new things. But start with talking. Nobody likes to be surprised with a giant sex toy when what they really need is a day in bed being caressed, kissed and reassured that they are sexy and desirable. If you’re doing the same old things over and over it’s likely to be a problem you share and one that’s best fixed as a team.

Don’t discuss sexual problems while being sexual. Don’t dissect sexual experiences right after the act unless you’re both into that. Reminisce about the sexy things you’ve done and talk about recreating the feeling of excitement and arousal, which may or may not be achieved by the same acts at this stage. Before focussing on new things, check your basics and ensure you’re both still on the money when pleasuring each other.

I’ve been happily in a relationship with a wonderful woman for about 9 years now, and we got married a year ago. We’re soul mates and adore each other, but we never have sex any more. We cuddle, snuggle and kiss (not passionately) and we talk about everything. We’ve talked about our lack of sex and both agree we should make more of an effort but nothing seems to change. I’ve read about “lesbian bed death” and I think we’re a perfect example. Can you help?

“Bed death” is not just limited to lesbians! All couples in long-term relationships tend to experience a drop in their sexual play over time. Some experience a sudden and dramatic drop-off, often caused by a life event, and others notice a gradual change over time. Some couples rediscover their passion, some are comfortable with the decrease, and others need a bit of help to get back on track.

Talking about why your sex life isn’t where you’d like it to be, and what you could do about it, is great if you can do so without blame and defensiveness. Once you’ve pinpointed the issues and figured out what you’d like to be different, it’s time for action. Repeating conversations that highlight the weaknesses of a relationship can actually become reinforcing of those weaknesses.

As you sound like a close and loving couple (congratulations on getting married!), I’m going to focus more on the action you can take, rather than the talking.

When I’m working with a couple, I explain to them that there are three entities to consider: one partner, the other partner and the relationship. All three need nurturing. Sometimes a partner may need to put their own needs first, and sometimes their partner’s. But both parties will also need to keep the relationship in mind, and make decisions based on what’s best for it, even at the expense of their own needs.

It sounds like you two have developed some bad habits that are blocking your sexual fun. And habits can be changed only with significant and consistent effort. Neuroscience has taught us that with such effort, we can create new neural pathways or habits. We can actually change our brains, but not if we’re half-hearted.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

  • Sit down with your diaries and work out how much time you can give to the relationship each week; you might be surprised how much time you could have.
  • Work out how much time you can take for yourselves – separate from each other – each week. It’s important to pursue individual interests, and then to bring that energy back to the relationship.
  • Introduce “date night” once a week where you don’t have any devices. Take turns in planning the date and go along with each other’s choices. Give yourselves a minimum of two hours, possibly plan a meal out or a walk on the beach, or just plan to spend that time together with no devices, and see what happens
  • Sleep naked. I can’t stress enough just how important skin on skin is. Make this an every night thing. If you’re cold, get an electric blanket, hot-bottle or heater. And if you really can’t manage a whole night, get naked for a cuddle at the very least.
  • If you don’t already, start self-loving (masturbating) at least three times a week. Research shows that women who regularly masturbate have higher libidos and are more open to being sexual with partners.
  • Start kissing like lovers again (try this while naked for added oomph). Take your time and get reacquainted with each other’s mouths.
  • Remove all devices from the bedroom and ban talk of domestic or work business from the bedroom. Keep it personal and loving.
  • Tell each other what turns you on and then try acting on some of it.
  • Give each other compliments daily (make them real and varied).
  • Agree not to criticise each other for one month.
  • Watch the inner voice that will tell you not to stick to this plan, and don’t let each other off the hook either.



I’m so lonely. We both work busy jobs and get no time together any more. He brings me flowers every week and is very generous with gifts. In fact if I tell him I’m lonely he buys me something. He seems to think a pair of earrings is really what I’m after. If we go away for weekends he makes sure we’ve loads to do and I still feel we don’t get to just hang out and be with each other. My friends think I’m so lucky to be spoiled and I feel bad complaining. But I’m finding it harder to be intimate with him as I don’t feel close to him.


What you may be describing is two different ways to feel and show love. It sounds like your main way of expressing love is quality time whilst his is gifts. He may very well believe that he’s doing great by giving you gifts, because he’s learned that gifts signify love. You may be judging the gifts as shallow, or the lack of quality time as a sign that he’s not loving you. But if you’re both valuing different love languages, you’re both going to feel misunderstood.

How does he react when you give him gifts? Does it look like you’ve hit the mark? I would sit him down and ask him what makes him feel really loved and see what he says. Tell him that quality time is your language and you need it to feel loved.

If you want quality time, and he’s more about gifts, you need to take the lead and show him what you mean. Don’t expect him to get it right without some guidance.

Learning how to make your partner feel really loved is a joy. It frees up time and energy as you can focus on what they’ve told you they really want, rather than what you’d like or what you imagine they’d like.

Have a look at Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages for more on this.



Status communication


How can me and my boyfriend stop fighting over stupid things?


Great question.
There are lots of reasons people fight over small stuff, but I’ve yet to meet a couple with strong communication skills who choose fighting over discussion.

Some couples stick to the “stupid things” because they’re afraid that broaching the deeper stuff could break them up, particularly if they can’t manage to discuss the shopping without a fight. When couples become used to fighting a lot, they often don’t realise the emotional rollercoaster they’re on. This in itself is exhausting and it can also make it risky to share real feelings, desires and needs if you expect a fight.

Once you know why you fight, it’s easier to figure out how to stop. It can be useful to think of the relationship as a third party that needs as much care and energy and thought as you and your partner do. Sometimes what’s good for you (say winning an argument) is not what’s best for the relationship.

Tell your partner you want this to change and that you’re going to try not to sweat the small stuff and you’d like his support. If you find yourself feeling angry over something, take a minute or two to breathe and get clear before commenting. Slow down and check how important it is and if you’ve argued over it before. If you have, don’t approach it the same way.

Have a conversation with your partner where you tell each other how you’d like to be spoken to if there is an issue to discuss. This can include times, situations, tone of voice and what you say. The aim is to get your point across without it getting lost in a row.

Even the most loving and close couples fight sometimes. The key is to learn how to communicate without fighting where possible, and if a fight happens, that you fight “clean” and make up soon.

Clean fighting means:

  • you stick to the issue in hand
  • you don’t interrupt
  • you don’t belittle or shame or laugh at your partner
  • you don’t bring up the past
  • you don’t add insults
  • you both get a chance to speak uninterrupted
  • you focus on your own feelings and experience when talking
  • You use “I” statements
  • You don’t’ assume you know why your partner did or said something
  • There’s room for difference and you may need to agree to disagree
  • Not winning at any cost

Making up:
Saying sorry can be incredibly challenging, and meaning it is even harder. If something is hard to do, it takes strength and courage to do it. Saying sorry is something to be proud of and accepting an apology is equally brave. How long do you want to feel lonely and sad? Bigger picture!



Status break-ups


My marriage broke up a year ago and I was devastated. My husband said he wasn’t in love with me any more and there was no-one else. But six months later he was in a relationship and I can’t help suspecting they were together before we split. I also can’t stop thinking how easy it is for him to leave his family (two kids) and start a new life, while I’m stuck at home minding the kids. I’ve no time to date and even if I did, it’s so much harder for women than men. I hate him for leaving and for moving on so easily.


You haven’t asked a question so I’m going to assume you’re curious to know how you can feel better about the split and your ex.

It sounds like you haven’t been able to heal much or find closure yet. However, it’s important to know that for most people in your shoes, healing and closure are a choice followed by a lot of effort. Making that choice and following up with effort can feel unjust if you may be feeling like this was done “to” you. But that’s where the potential for real healing, growth and change will come from.

Choosing to change how you think about your ex, the split and caring for the kids when you feel hurt and betrayed is one of the bravest things you can do. The split wasn’t your choice but how you live now is totally down to you.

There’s a great saying that “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die” (Malachy McCourt).

In other words, you’re the one suffering here. He isn’t. And until you take back your power and begin making decisions based on becoming really happy, you will continue to suffer while he gets on with his life. While you feed the hatred and resentment for him, you’re still in a kind of relationship with him where your happiness is linked to him.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is to shift your focus, from your ex to yourself. Show your kids how much you value yourself and time with them. Start using your energy to develop your own interests and to feed your confidence. Get out into the world and have some fun and adventures.

Some people resist moving on because they don’t want their ex to feel they did the right thing in leaving. But that approach comes at the expense of your happiness, not his.

Try spending your energy encouraging yourself to be happy and healthy rather than using it to bash someone who has moved on and won’t be affected anyway. If you find it hard to do this for yourself, think of your kids and do it for them. They’ll be much happier if you are.



I broke up with my ex about three years ago and we don’t hang out or see each other except for sex a few times a year. It stops if we’re seeing other people and there’s no wish to be a couple again. Is this okay? We don’t like each other very much but the sex is amazing.


If you’re both happy with the arrangement and the sex is amazing I say go for it. Just because it’s not the norm doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But there are a few pitfalls to watch out for.

Keep checking in about wanting a relationship as it can change over time. If one of you wants something more, then the casual sex is no longer working and one of you will get hurt at some point.

If you’re both sleeping with other people it’s important that everyone is protected so use condoms with all partners.

Great sex doesn’t equal respect. Having sex with someone where the respect is missing can eat away at your self-esteem over time so if you begin to feel bad, stop.

If you know you can have fantastic, no-strings sex, it can make working on a new relationship unattractive. Comparing new partners to one you know well can also be unfair. If you feel this arrangement is blocking something new, stop it.



My girlfriend and I were always fighting and I was sick of it so I ended it. We had a massive fight and as often happens, we ended up in bed. We both like angry sex but for me it was break-up sex and for her it was just another argument, fixed by sex. I’ve moved out but she’s texting me all the time telling me I’m scum and a user. What can I do?


When your ex realised it was break-up sex and not the usual angry sex, she might have felt used and confused and angry for going there when the relationship was ending.

That’s understandable based on your history and she may have needed to let you know. It sounds like she’s done that very clearly. Now you need to decide how much more contact you want to have. If it’s really over and you’re done, you may need to consider blocking her from your devices and telling her you’re doing so. You may need to ask your friends not to share information about you with her and to ensure you don’t have access to each other via FB etc.

This is the kindest thing you can do if you’re really finished. No matter how much she wants to remain connected to you, it’s kinder to cut ties so you can both move on.

If there’s more for you to say, such as an apology for hurting her, or to help her understand why it’s over and why you’re not coming back, you can do that via email or letter to avoid a fight; texting is not good enough. The reason to avoid face-to-face contact is that it might lead to angry sex again and that will only make things worse.



We have been together for ten years and have two great kids of 4 and 6. We got married 5 years ago but things haven’t been right for years and we’ve decided to split. What’s the best way to tell the kids?


I’m sorry to hear of your planned split but I believe wholeheartedly that the best thing for children is to see their parents happy and healthy. It’s a big burden for some kids to carry when they learn their miserable parents decided to remain together and miserable for them. It sounds like you’ve come to this decision slowly and are still speaking so that’s a good start.

United Approach:
Planning is really important when telling your kids about any big change. At all times, ask yourselves if you’re doing the best thing for them. It won’t be possible all the time, but if that’s your baseline, you’ll do okay. It’s not easy to put your own hurt and disappointment aside in the midst of a separation so allow for mistakes and try to keep focused on your kids’ well-being.

Start a new relationship:
Your relationship isn’t ending; it’s changing so you can live apart and be happy. They won’t have you in one home but they will still have you both. The love, care and protection you provide will stay the same. The change isn’t about or because of them. There are different kinds of love and the love parents have for each other can change but the love a parent has for their child never changes. It’s different.

Younger children can often grasp this concept better than older ones and may be reassured by learning that they will be gaining another home with another bed, TV, garden, toys or whatever you’ll be able to provide. It helps if they can have input into the new home(s).

Clear Communication:
Children worry and fill in the blanks when parents say things like “it’ll be okay” or “don’t you worry about that”. How will it be okay? Why shouldn’t they worry? If you don’t know something, say so and then try to find an answer for them. Sometimes kids will ask really random questions and they need you to answer them clearly. Try not to go into more detail than they’re asking for.

Don’t put your kids in the middle:
Parents sometimes think they’re empowering their kids by giving them choices around who they spend time or live with. But kids tend to feel torn and confused and would rather not have to make choices at the outset. With time, as they come to trust the new arrangement they might offer ideas themselves.

Never undermine or denigrate the other parent:
No matter how angry you might get, or how much your kids seem to favour their other parent, it’s never a good idea to speak negatively about your ex. It bruises them deeply because your ex is part of them. This is particularly true of children who are the same sex as the ex. If there’s an issue, speak directly to your ex-partner in private and don’t contradict their decisions outright. Your children with thank you for it and will trust you more if you can remain an adult.

Repeat regularly:
Kids need to hear they’re safe, loved, accepted, wanted and valued over and over. It isn’t a one-off dialogue. Find ways to repeat the message such as telling them your time together makes you happy. Think of adventures to have and be fully present with them.

They are little people who need sleep, relaxation, play time and loving time, as well as all the usual stuff like school and meals and friends. It’s important to work hard to maintain structure so they know what to expect. Not knowing what to expect can create anxiety and fear in small children.

Allow moods:
Just as you’ll both have ups and downs, so will your kids. They won’t be able to voice it and may need help naming their feelings. It’s important to help them explore how they feel, rather than expect them to behave as though nothing has changed. Bad behaviour isn’t okay but it’s understandable. Don’t indulge them out of guilt, but don’t shut them down because you can’t handle their moods. Get outside help with this if needed.

Extended Family and Friends:
Inform your loved ones that you intend to prioritise your kids and ask them to adopt the same approach. If they won’t, they may need to step back until the kids are more settled.