Helping you to put your children first
It is estimated that one in three children will experience separation before the age of 16.
There have been hundreds of research projects over the years looking at the impact of parental separation or divorce. Sadly it is statistically provable that children from separated families have a higher probability of behavioural problems, perform less well in school and are more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms.
On a positive note, research goes on to demonstrate that it is within the parents’ power to ensure the children grow up without experiencing these difficulties.
Minimising conflict is key and considering the position from your child’s perspective essential.
What most children say
- The majority of children do not want their parents to split up. They regard such a separation as a major crisis in their lives. It should be treated as such.
- Children want to be told what is happening in an appropriate way at the earliest opportunity. In many cases children will have already picked up on what is happening. A quarter of children interviewed said that no one had talked to them about it at the time and only 5% were given a full explanation and the chance to ask questions.
- Children actively dislike their parents to openly criticise or undermine each other.
- In particular, the majority of children found parental conflict surrounding contact visits extremely distressing. Not only did they feel cheated and betrayed but they also respected their parents less as a result.
- Children want opportunities to keep “normal” aspects of their lives going, as well as being able to talk about what is happening and participate in decisions.
Recent research showed that parents are in denial about the impact their divorce can have on their children. In a recent survey of 1000 parents and a 1000 children:
- Only 14% of children were able to be honest with their parents about how upset they felt.
- 2 in 5 children said they “hide their feelings from their parents as they do not want to upset them”.
- 1 in 12 felt forced to “look after” the parent as the relationship broke down.
- More than a third claimed one of their parents tried to turn them against the other.
- Almost a third of under 18’s described themselves as “devastated” by their parents’ divorce and 1 in 8 blamed themselves for the split. In contrast, only 5% of parents realised their children blamed themselves and 1 in 19 thought their children were relieved when they left their partners.
How to help your children
The children of separated parents do best if they have strong relationships with each parent. They benefit from certainty and routine.
Children want to be heard. They want to be consulted and informed of what is happening. However, they don’t wish to make major decisions and it is not fair to put that burden on them.
During separation, you cannot help the way you are feeling but you can make an active choice as to how you deal with those feelings and this will have a huge impact on your children’s lives.
- Do show your children that you love them.
- Do let your children know that both parents love them and it is ok for them to love both of you.
- Do tell your children repeatedly that it’s not their fault.
- Do support your children’s relationship with your ex.
- Do listen to your children and acknowledge their views.
- Do make sure your child’s teacher is aware of the situation.
- Do help your children feel they have a home with both of you.
- Do provide your children with structure and limits as well as love.
- Don’t criticise your ex or their family and don’t disparage your ex’s new partner.
- Don’t tell children the details of your divorce.
- Don’t use children as messengers or spies.
- Don’t retaliate. Giving “your side of the story” simply continues the cycle of conflict.
- Don’t make your children responsible for making adult decisions.
- Don’t use your children as a friend. They need a parent and you need a supportive network outside the immediate family.
- Don’t blame. Children should not be forced to take sides.
- Don’t stop contact if child support is not paid and vice versa. However hard it may seem these are separate issues.
- Don’t try to buy your children’s love.
More resources, support and practical tips can be found on Resolution’s free parenting through separation guide here.
No matter the stage of your separation journey, we are here to help.
Please contact Claire Dean or a member of our family team below for advice regarding child arrangements and ensure you are putting your children first.