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Helping your children through divorce or separation

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When you have children you never expect that you will be bringing them into a world that one day will be blown apart around them when two parents choose- or are forced by circumstances – to consider separation or divorce.

Yet the statistics show it is more common than ever and a simple survey of people you know yourself is likely to throw up a number of now single parent families in similar situations. The pressures of modern life, the ease of clandestine communications such as mobiles and Facebook that are often guilty of fueling affairs, and the distractions and pressure that can build particularly when you have both parents working means that is now sometimes seems more of a surprise when families stay together rather than be forced apart.

Children do not understand divorce

But whether it has got more common or acceptable or not is immaterial to the small people who can get caught in the crossfire- the children — and such facts still don’t make it any easier as an adult to either accept or explain but in your role as a parent it’s a job you have to do – and for the sake of your children a job that must be done well – with honesty and simplicity and without blame.

Knowing what to say to a child when you explain the decision to separate or divorce depends largely upon their age – a child of three will need a very different explanation than that of an older child. The crux of what is said however should be the same whatever age – a stressing of the fact that none of what is happening is the child’s fault, that both parents still love the child but that sadly the two parents themselves feel differently about each other. Such conversations should be honest and reassuring and delivered with a united front from both parents despite the circumstances that may have led to the split.

Honesty is best

Being honest is essential to the child’s stability at a time when their world is falling apart and false promises should definitely not be made. Don’t as a parent pretend you are coming back if, in your own mind you have already made the decision to leave for good and certainly don’t make promises to your child that you cannot fulfil. As hard as it may be to look them in the eye this is exactly what the child needs – well that and a barrow load of hugs too.

Supporting your children through such a time when you yourself can often still be reeling from such an event can be one of the hardest things you will go through. Providing an explanation when you can’t often explain what has happened to yourself is enough to send you into a tailspin when you already can’t cope.

A mother consoling her child

But it is VITAL that you do stay strong for your children through such a huge period of change and upheaval in their lives and try to enforce as much of the boundaries that were previously set as before surrounding discipline and routine as they go through their own adjustment period.

It can be all too easy to simply spoil the child – for simple things such as discipline and bedtimes for example to go out of the window because your child is hurting and it’s easier to snuggle up cuddling them on the sofa than send them to bed on time. Yet bizarre as it may sound such seemingly mundane routines will now be more important to your child than ever as they will need things and rules that they can still depend upon.

To look after your children through this stage though means that you must be looked after too. At a time when you can no longer rely on your spouse to do this it’s essential you take up the help offered by friends or family to help you through and that you set yourself small goals to achieve each day rather than trying to thing too long term which can be a hugely daunting thing at this stage. It is also worth speaking to your child’s school teachers -both for their support and understanding but also to help them monitor your child for any possible repercussions from their parents split.

Try to keep to routines

You have to do your best to normalise life for your child as soon as possible and to rebuild their safety boundaries as soon as you can. Such a devastating upheaval for a child can trigger huge changes in behaviour as they struggle to accept and understand the change in the same way that you yourself may be feeling and resetting boundaries and reaffirming your love really does help get through the early days.

How long it takes a child to get through such an event will vary and at times when you are still struggling it can be easy to look at them and wonder why they aren’t hurting like you are. But if that is the case it’s likely to simply be testament to something you have done right than something you have done wrong and you should be proud that you have got them through such a traumatic time without too much damage done.

 

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About Liz Morrell

About Liz Morrell

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