When you’re going through separation and have children to consider, it’s important to address the many changes your family will go through. Some of these changes will be big and potentially scary to children, such as moving house, the possibility of not seeing both parents as much as usual, and coping with the uncertainty of what happens next. Other changes will be small but no less significant in a child’s eyes, such as whether they’ll still get to go to their usual after school clubs, or which toys to bring when going between each parent’s place. During the course of separation and divorce, it’s important to keep communicating with your children to make sure they understand enough about the process to put their minds at rest, and to involve them in decision that affect them wherever appropriate.
Make time to sit down with your ex and your kids to talk over the impact separation might have on their normal routine, and address any worries they have, such as:
What will stay the same? Firstly, focus on the things that won’t change. It might sound like a cliché but children really do need the security and reassurance that their parents still love them, and that the separation isn’t their fault. Explain that yes, some things might be different but there are plenty of aspects of their life that will remain the same. Perhaps they’ll still be spending most of their time in the family home, for example. Make a list of all the familiar things that will stay unchanged to reassure your children that life isn’t going to be turned upside down.
What’s changes will affect them? Some new aspects of life after divorce may not have significant repercussions on your children, while others will affect them directly. Be clear about what is going to change and, more importantly, how you intend to help them adapt to these changes. Look for the positives, and work together to create a plan to make the most of your new routine. There’s always a silver lining – such as getting to choose new toys or books for their second home, or incorporating new activities into their changing routine, and spending more quality time with each individual parent.
How can they be involved in decision-making? Giving your children a certain amount of control over how you adapt to life post-separation as a family can be vital in helping them work through the changes. Find out what’s most important to them, such as making sure they still get to see extended family regularly, or are able to take part in their usual extra-curricular activities. Give them the opportunity to make small decisions (like decorating their new room) but don’t overwhelm them with too much choice, or too much responsibility.
At first, it may feel like there are a million different decisions to be made, and more ‘what ifs’ than certainties, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that settling into life post-divorce is an ongoing process that will continue to change. Over time, things will settle down and you’ll be able to adjust and tweak your new routine according to your needs rather than having to make big changes.
When handling these issues with children, consider these tips on communicating and aiding understanding:
- Be flexible: As your children grow, and you get used to all the new changes and requirements of separation, you’ll need to be adaptable. Stay in close contact with your co-parent as much as possible and allow for flexibility to help stay on top of unexpected childcare needs.
- Keep talking: Let your children know you’re always there if they need to talk, or help them find someone more objective to vent their feelings to, such as a school counsellor, a grandparent, friend, or professional therapist. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your ex if you can – you may no longer be a couple but you’re both still parents.
- Make the most of your time together: Separation can be stressful but time with your children is precious, particularly if you’re dividing it with your ex. Try to set aside your worries about separation and enjoy your time together. However, bear in mind there’s no need to overcompensate (or compete with your ex) with expensive gifts or outings – what your children need right now is normality and familiarity.
- Remember – it won’t always be this hard! Children are resilient and they will adapt to their new routine in time. The initial fallout may be difficult, as you all get used to the changes separation brings, but you will get through it! Use the support of your friends, family, and your solicitor to help you to work through the difficult times of separation and emerge on the other side with a positive outlook for you and your children.
One of the best ways to manage separation with children is to opt for a cooperative and non-combative method of divorce, such as collaborative family law or mediation, both of which entail working together with your ex to come to a practical, respectful resolution and put a plan in place for co-parenting together.
For more information on these methods of dispute resolution, or to speak to an experienced family lawyer about children’s issues, get in touch with us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk or call 01628 634667.