Children and divorce

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    Even when a separation has been expected, it’s common to feel a sense of shock or numbness as you begin to work through the practicalities that the decision involves. Many parents feel anxious about the future and  overwhelmed by the number of decisions that need to be made.

    When there are children in the relationship it is important not to lose sight of their needs. You may not be a couple anymore but you will not stop being a parent.

    Research has been carried out into the factors connected with reducing stress for children at the time of divorce. These tips might help:

    – Children will be better able to cope if their parents can be seen to share the responsibility for their welfare. So, telling them together about when and what is going to happen will show them that you can still be Mum and Dad even though you are no longer together as a couple.

    – Whilst you want to be open and honest with the children, try to keep in mind what they can cope with at their different ages. They do not need to know every single detail about what has gone wrong, nor should they be involved in any conflict between you and your partner.

    – Try to keep as normal a routine as possible going. When the routine has to change, introduce the changes as slowly as you can, and talk them through with the children.

    – Remind them that you will always be their parents even though you may not wish to be a couple and reassure them that it is not their fault that you have decided to divorce – this is between the two of you.              

    – Do everything you can to help yourselves adjust to your new situation, especially if you are the parent with residence.

    – Reassure them that you have decided to separate from each other but not from them; you are still their parents. Do not put them in a position where they have to choose between you.

    The relationship counselling agency Relate recently published findings from 143 young people counsellors as part of the Understanding Teenagers’ Ups and Downs campaign. 64% of the counsellors said that mental  health/depression was the most common new issue affecting young people seeking help. Second most common was family break-up, reported by 43%, and third was dealing with parents with mental health problems, 23%.

    Counselling can help in addressing the difficult issues when a relationship breaks up. Talking calmly and honestly to each other in an impartial environment often minimizes the harsh and hurtful words that are said in anger. A counsellor will support you as well as helping you to look at what went wrong in order to prevent the breakdown of future relationships.