According the the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, more than one in four children will experience their parents’ divorce by the age of 16. Therefore it is important that we learn how best to handle this traumatic process to reduce the negative effects for children.
Most children are naturally resilient and parents living apart will not, on it’s own, cause major upset. They will of course miss their parents and be confused and upset at the start but once they understand and see that both parents are happier and still regularly involved in their lives, they can enjoy having two homes. Two birthday and Christmas presents!
Problems tend to occur when there is regular conflict between between both before, during and after the divorce. This can lead to behaviour problems and even mental health problems if the situation is prolonged.
When parents are too focused on their own emotions (which can easily happen when things are so raw) they forget that their children are being exposed to all the negativity and no-one is explaining to them what is going on. This can result in children feeling that it is somehow their fault and they may act out (either being overly emotional or aggressive) as they don’t know how to handle their emotions. After all their parents aren’t showing them how to manage theirs either.
Therefore one of the most important things you can do if you and your partner are struggling with conflict and separation is on the cards or has already happened, is to learn how to deal with your own emotions in a much more effective way. Counselling or therapy can help you to make sense and work through the hurt and pain in a safe environment, away from little ears.
You may also find that your own confidence is damaged and you feel a failure so try to do some work on your self esteem. Write down the things you are most proud of. What you have achieved in your life. Don’t focus all your energy on the separation because this is just one part of your journey and you can and WILL be happy again.
A good rule of thumb for parents going through a divorce is to consider these factors:
- try not to fight in front of your children or ask them to choose sides
- accept that your children’s feelings may be different from yours
- think about what you should and shouldn’t do, not what your ex-partner should or shouldn’t do
- focus on what has worked, not on what hasn’t worked
- remember, small steps can lead to big changes
- look after yourself and be the best parent you can be
(source: Relate “Parents Apart)
Separation and divorce is hard on everyone but you can make the process much easier on yourself and your children if you keep these in focus at all times.
I’d love to hear your experiences and what has worked well for you. If you’d like support going through this process, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org