Helping children deal with separation
Going through separation can be a difficult process for everyone involved, and particularly if there are children in the relationship. Going through the throws of seeing their parents separate can cause children real difficulties in handling emotions. During this time, big changes are happening in their lives, but there are some key things you can do to help the children to adapt to the new circumstances.
The first thing is communication. It is important that your children understand what is going on and why. Whilst there can be such a thing as providing too much information at this time, children who are unaware of the situation are likely to experience severe negative reactions. This means avoiding keeping it a secret because they could be left feeling deceived. Instead, have the conversation and encourage others to be open so that your children can speak with other sources, such as grandparents etc.
It is also important to ask them if they have any questions, to open up any opportunities in flagging up their emotions and how they are feeling. And then looking for the messages in their emotions and responding to them accordingly.
If you find your child is unusually quiet it may be a sign that they may not feel confident or able to ask you the questions for the answers they are seeking.
Being honest and unbiased about the situation is important. Many children whose parents are separating, remain hopeful about the parents’ future relationship. So, understanding that the separation is permanent is important for your child’s development and wellbeing.
If your child is feeling sad, anger or frustration, do not let it anger you. All emotions are important and carry messages. By listening to these messages, remaining calm yourself and acknowledging their emotions, you can together feel more emotionally in control. Crying or feeling guilty, is simply not a sign of weakness.
Privacy for you both is vital for a healthy and smooth separation. Involving any children or arguing in front of them can cause distress and upset and most likely, have a lasting effect on them psychologically. If you need to discuss something with your ex-partner, do so away from your children.
Separation usually involves such a change in lifestyle that involves moving home and this can take up a lot of your time. As can the paperwork surrounding moving and going through a separation or divorce. Do not forget to take some well-deserved time out and spend some quality time with your children during this hectic time. A good idea would be to draw up a routine schedule, with your ex-partner so that it is clear to everyone, including the children, when each parent will be spending time with them.
“Everything is going to be okay and you’re not going to feel like this forever.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“You don’t need to do anything.”
These are good key phrases. Your child needs to understand that there is nothing extra they need to do to help the situation and there is nothing they did to make it worse. You have to remain the adult in this situation at all times, no matter how much it is hurting you. Seek help from other family members or a professional if you find yourself unable to cope, but do not expect this support from your children. They are the ones who are most vulnerable and need support from you.
Continuity is key. It may sound obvious, but disturbing a child’s routine can have negative consequences. More so than ever when they are going through any type of trauma. Routines will help a child to understand that life goes on and that they can enjoy life again. Maintaining their after-school classes or playdates will cement that understanding and ensure that whilst change is scary and unavoidable, some elements will be maintained.
Keeping your child distracted with treats can be very beneficial for emotional freedom. We are not talking about bribery here, and we do not recommend putting a financial strain on yourself just in order to do things that will make your child happy. However, it can be the small things, like a meal out or a trip to see family, these are an easy way to take away some of the stress going on at home, for a short time.
As mentioned above, now is not a good time to try and bribe your children into being happy. They are complex little human beings and showering them with material possessions may seem like you are softening the blow, but the psychological impact that it will have may cause issues later in life. Preventing the separation from becoming a traumatic experience has to be your key objective. Asking your child to pick sides and treating them to gifts or days out and talking negatively about the other parent is a definite no go.
How we can help
Since this article has been published we no longer offer Family Law services but we can help you with:
- Wills, Probate & Power of Attorney
- Personal Injury
- Court of Protection
- Medical Negligence