In a recent blog post we talked about what happens after a separation and how you can come back from a low place to contemplate and eventually embrace life after divorce? We gave some tips for divorce recovery both in the short term and the long term. You can have a look at that blog by clicking here. We’re now revisiting that question but from the perspective of children whose parents are separating.
It can be difficult getting the balance right for your children when you separate. Your natural instinct as a parent is to protect and shield them but they need to know what is going on and what changes are going to happen in their lives. They also need to know that the separation is not their fault and that they are loved by both parents and that they are free to have a relationship with both parents. This is really important and it means that each parent doesn’t wince, or make a face when they mention their other parent and that they certainly don’t say negative things about the other parent. Children are half of one parent and half of the other and attacking the other parent is likely to be seen as attacking or not valuing a large part of that child. That means that in any conversations about what happens next it is important that there is no blame attached e.g “well we’ll have to move house because dad won’t give us enough money to stay here”, or “you’ll probably see me less because mum won’t let you come and stay with me in the week”.
It’s also important that children are able to raise any concerns they have with their parents without fear of causing an issue or upsetting one or both of their parents. Creating a safe and supportive space where you can answer your children’s questions is important. If you can do that together then even better! Sometimes you may not be able to answer their questions because you don’t know what will happen yet but it’s OK to say that you don’t know yet but you will let them know as soon as you know more. Sometimes having an outside person to talk to can be helpful for children so that they can talk about their feelings without feeling that they are hurting their parents. This could be another family member or a friend (provided they are not taking sides or don’t have an axe to grind). It can also assist if they can access professional help if they need it and especially so if you notice some changes in their behaviour or if they seem to be struggling with emotional or behavioural problems. This could be a support service provided through their school, or a counselling service provided through the NHS (such as a practice counsellor or CAMHS) or privately. Early intervention can often be crucial in preventing long term knock on effects.
We all know that parenting is tough and that no one has a manual – let alone a manual for separating from your child’s other parent. You might get it wrong at first. It’s hard to know what the best thing is and it’s even harder to make rational decisions when you are angry, scared and emotional. The first step in addressing this is acknowledging that you may not have done the right thing to both your children and their other parent. The second is to look at what is the better choice and what support you might need to follow that route. There is a lot of information for separating parents on the Resolution website. There is also information for parents on the CAFCASS website. There is also a charity called Voices in the Middle whose aim is to help young people whose parents have separated. LKW Family Mediation are proud to support this amazing charity and you can find their website here.
As part of the family mediation process your children can be consulted so that they have a voice in the process (but without decision making responsibility) which can be helpful in informing decisions you are making about them, and if you feel you have got stuck. This child mediation process is called Child Inclusive Mediation. If you’d like to know more about this then please get in touch with us on 01306 646690 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org