Recent statistics show that nearly 50% of children experience their parents going through a divorce before they reach sixteen years old.
Separations and divorce are a difficult time for any adult, but when children are involved their physical and emotional wellbeing is the main priority. Family break-ups can create emotional distress for children if not handled in the right way.
Henry Brookman, senior divorce lawyer of Brookman Solicitors provides his expert insight into how to manage this difficult situation…
During a separation children can go through a multitude of emotions. Sadness, confusion and guilt can affect their wellbeing, so you should both provide plenty of support and reassurance. Reassure your child that you still love and care for them, just like before. Make sure they understand they are of the utmost importance to you and that your love for them won’t change.
If you have multiple children, try to spend quality time with each of them individually. This will help ensure they all feel special, cared for and listened to. Additionally, make it a priority to ensure your children know the separation is not their fault. Emphasise that this was a decision made by both parents.
Children often blame themselves and pinpoint things they have said or done which may have caused the break-up. Placate their minds and let them know that this is definitely not the case.
Children shouldn’t be exposed to any adult acrimony. Bitterness or ill-feelings towards the other party should be kept well out of sight. When you talk about the break-up, limit what you tell them to what they need to know. Whether your separation is mutual and amicable or filled with animosity and resentment, children should be shielded from any potentially damaging adult issues.
How you break the news to them is also a very important step. Where possible, tell them as a couple to keep an authoritative and united front together as parents. Try to give age-appropriate information. Keep in mind that older children may want to understand and know more. Setting ground rules with the other parent is a good idea. Agree to keep things positive, avoid arguments and to always remain amicable while your children are present.
Regardless of your efforts, this will be a difficult time for your children and it needs to be managed appropriately. Encourage them to be open and honest with their feelings. You don’t want them to bottle things up and deal with complex emotions on their own. Children can find it challenging to express their true thoughts, fears and feelings; be patient and allow them to open up without interrupting. Listen to what they say and answer their questions as best as you can. Encourage them to be open with you and the other parent. They should never be made to feel disloyal for speaking to either of you.
Negative behaviour changes such as anxiety, aggression, loss of appetite or trouble at school can be normal for children as they struggle to process difficult emotions. They may benefit from speaking to a doctor, psychologist, social worker or even close family member or friend who can act as a confidante. Getting them to talk and express their feelings is a fundamental step in ensuring they are in a positive mindset going forward.
About the Author
Henry Brookman is a divorce solicitor and senior partner at Brookman, a highly experienced family law firm with expertise in a full range of family legal matters including: divorce in the UK and internationally, complex financial issues, property settlements and children’s matters. Brookman is ranked by the Legal 500 and has been awarded the Law Society’s quality mark, Lexcel. For more information visit: www.brookman.co.uk.
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