Written by: Shani Fowler
Whether married or living together, the vows we make and the determination we initially set out with – to be happy and love each other – can fizzle away, sometimes despite all our best efforts relationships break down. This is not only hard for the couple involved but can be as hard if not harder for children. Although children can be very resilient, there is undoubtedly an impact on them. They can feel sad, confused and resentful whether they are young or growing up. Even the children that have flown the nest can be deeply affected. So as well as getting ourselves through a divorce or separation, we need to ensure the transition for our children is as smooth and painless as possible too.
Be honest with the children. Even young children become wise that there is something wrong. Children deserve the truth, though the young will need less detail and keeping the explanation as simple as possible is best. Tell them that you and your partner are no longer happy together but make sure that you give them the reassurance that despite your separation, you both love them immensely, reiterating that this situation does not change yours and your ex-partner’s love for them has not changed at all.
Beware of blame
Even if you feel unjustly treated, there is infidelity involved, or you are just very hurt by events, use your best endeavours to not apportion blame. It is still your child’s parent so be as diplomatic and as respectful of your spouse as you can, presenting as much of a united front as possible.
Plan talks together with the children on what living arrangements are going to be. Work on maintaining an amicable relationship with your ex as it will help reassure children as well as providing them with an important lesson of problem-solving skills.
Support your children by letting them express their emotions and listen to what they say and how they feel. Encourage them to talk openly and honestly – they may be worried about things you haven’t even thought they’d think of, you can use it as an opportunity to reassure them. Answer any questions they might have as honestly as possible.
Children may go through a range of stages before they get to the acceptance part of the split. Be patient with them, remember their whole life as they have ever known it is about to be turned upside down, and it will take time for things to settle.
Make sure you frequently reassure your child or children and provide lots of close physical contact; a hug can be powerful and can help bridge the widest of divides.
Depending on what living arrangements are made regarding the children, they may suddenly crave to speak to the parent they are currently apart from. Allow and encourage phone calls, emails, letters even, any contact wherever possible; make sure they have lines of communication and contact with the parent they are missing.
Keep mindful of problems with kids
Though it is normal for children to experience a range of emotions at first such as anger or anxiety, keep aware of how your child is dealing with it. If your child doesn’t seem to be accepting the situation or they appear to becoming worse you need to address the situation. Children having a turbulent time might display bouts of anger, poor concentration and sleep problems.
They might suffer academically at school or might even develop a drug or alcohol problem. Always remain vigilant to such behaviours so it can be tackled rather than escalate out of control. Be prepared to discuss these issues with the children and whoever else may be able to help such as teachers, your GP or you could consider consulting with a child therapist.
It is often unchartered territory splitting from a partner where there are children involved and as well as feeling sad, you might feel unconfident and unsure how to get the children though such a tumultuous time. But with reassurance, patience, love, respect and understanding as well as a listening ear it can and will be successfully done.