If you are worried about how your separation might affect your child/children, here is our advice on ways you can help.
Separation affects the whole family. If there are children of the relationship, their needs require to be considered. Children need the continuing affection and support of both parents. They need to feel protected and secure.
There can be many negative feelings after a separation, and these can get in the way of the children’s adjustment to the separation. Conflict has a negative impact on children of whatever age, whatever occurs between parents, the children should be cocooned from it. The way you handle a separation very much affects how your children cope with it. Children are very sensitive to conflict between parents. It is hard for children to enjoy both parents when they continue fighting after separation, particularly if the children are put in the middle of the conflict.
It will require just as much, if not more, co-operation between you and your partner, which may not be easy. However, a well-handled separation can have many significant benefits for those separating as well as children.
Ways You Can Help Your children
- Do tell them it is not their fault, that you still feel the same way about them.
- Do maintain family relationships with both sides of the extended families
- Do tell them you still love them
- Do confirm that you are ok with the separation
- Do explain the position to them but don’t give them the details
- Do speak to them together if you can, if you can’t, agree with each other what is going to be said so they receive similar messages
- Do tell them what the plan is – where they will stay, school, friends etc.
- Do keep to the arrangement for contact /residence. Give as much advance notice of any possible changes or lateness.
- Do make decisions together than involve the children
- Do treat each other with respect and keep communicating with each other
- Don’t talk negatively about the other parent, be positive about the other parent
- Don’t coach the child/children
- Don’t use the children as messengers/go-betweens
- Don’t discuss aspects of the separation in front of the children or with them
- Don’t allow the children to decide the living arrangements
- Don’t let the children dictate
- Don’t use the children as bargaining chips or pawns in a game
- Don’t allow new partners to dictate matters relating to the children/separation
However difficult you find the separation; your children are finding it just as difficult. Consider whether you and the children need to talk to someone independently to help them cope with the difficulties they may be facing.
It is not unusual to feel a range of emotions after separation – loneliness, depression, grief. You may feel a failure leading to a loss of self-confidence, you may also feel anger, jealously or guilt. All these emotions are normal reactions in a separation. The children may feel a sense of abandonment, insecurity, fear. These feelings may give rise to a change in behaviour, some of which can be quite alarming. Again, these emotions are normal. However, you need to think about how you can deal with these emotions and whether you and the children need to talk to a professional to help you through.
Sally Swinney, Senior Partner and Family & Collaborative Law Specialist