January is often the month that couples decide that it is time to separate. This is a very difficult time for all concerned especially any children involved.
For parents there are a few key things to consider when telling a child for the first time about a separation:
If possible try to tell the child or children with both parents together in a calm and secure environment.
Keep the language simple and remove blame. Children need to be reassured that it is not their fault and they do not need to know the complex issues that are the core to the separation.
Emphasise that mummy and daddy still love them and always will.
Let them know as soon as possible what the arrangements will be, as this will help with the transition.
Listen to your children and let them talk through their worries and concerns.
It may be that the children appear to react well to the news, but this reaction should be treated with caution. Children often bottle feelings up and they may manifest in subtle changes in behaviour, or their reactions may simply be delayed. I have set out below a few key practical suggestions to consider:
Do not assume because a child seems to be ok that they are. During the process of separation there will be a great deal of readjustment and children need careful support and reassurance.
It is important to put into place a structure of when they will spend time with each parent. Whilst it is important to have a degree of flexibility in arrangements, children like routine and therefore the arrangements should be as clearly defined as possible and in the best interests of the child.
If the children are of school age it is very important that the school is notified as soon as possible so that the teachers and support staff can watch out for any changes in behaviour and provide the child with support.
Do not allow the children to hear your negative views regarding your ex-partner. Whilst it is a very frustrating time and you may feel very angry towards your ex-partner, hearing their other parent being spoken about negatively can be very damaging for a child both in the short and long term.
There is no one solution to dealing with children in parental separation, no two separations are the same and every child is different and will react in a different way emotionally to a separation. The key is to be as open as possible and to ensure that the child’s emotional and practical needs are put first by both parents. If you can work together as parents to achieve a workable arrangement then this will have long lasting positive effects on the family as a whole.
“Helen Victoria Bishop” is a member of Resolution and a Consultant Solicitor. Helen qualified as a Solicitor in 1999 and has practiced in family law ever since. Helen is passionate about the welfare of children in divorce and separation situations and has the experience of being instructed in hundreds of Children Act cases. Helen is also the author of “Jack” a children’s illustrated book to help children deal with the issues of divorce and separation. The book is aimed for children between the ages of 4 and 11 and is endorsed by “Resolution”. The book can be purchased at Amazon or in Waterstones, for more information visit www.jackandblackcat.com
Written by Helen Victoria Bishop