This short film by family law organisation Resolution is a great place to start when preparing to talk to your children about divorce. It can be difficult for children (and adults!) to deal with the complex emotions and reasons behind separation, but with the right approach you can help your kids to understand what’s going on, how to cope with their feelings, and what to expect from the future.
The video above has some excellent practical tips on talking to your children about separation and help them through the process, such as:
- Let your children know what’s going on. Your instinct may be to try and keep them blissfully ignorant but children will always sense when their parents are stressed and upset, which may worry them more than finding out the truth.
- Let them know it’s not their fault. Your children might blame themselves for the split, so be sure to let them know that you love them and they are not the reason for your separation.
- Keep it simple and age appropriate. Your children don’t need to know everything about your relationship breakdown – start with the practical stuff, such as what happens next, who they will be staying with, and what major changes to expect.
Form a united front
- Talk to your children together, if possible, and broach the subject as a couple. They need to hear the news from both of you and be reassured that even though you’re separating, you’re still their parents.
- Be consistent, honest, and realistic. Try to agree on some ground rules with your ex for how to co-parent after separation, and be as consistent as possible with your children. It’s a steep learning curve and you may not always get it right, so set reasonable expectations and be prepared to keep adjusting your approach.
Address difficult feelings
- It’s important to acknowledge the many extreme and changeable emotions your children may be feeling. They might switch from happy to angry to upset in an instant. Let them know that these feelings are natural and understandable, and that you’re there if they need to talk.
- On the flipside, your children should still have boundaries and consequences for their behaviour. You may want to treat them or let things slide more often because you feel guilty, but kids feel safest and happiest when they have parents who behave consistently.
- Don’t forget to look after yourself, too! You don’t have to be a super-parent, and you don’t have to go through this alone. Seek professional help if you need it; lean on the support of your friends and family; and get advice and guidance from your solicitor on the practical aspects of divorce. You can only be there for your kids if you take good care of yourself, first.
Parenting after parting
- Even though you’re no longer a couple, you’re both still parents, and will need to be able to co-exist for the sake of your children. You have a whole future of school events, marriages, and grandchildren to consider, so lay the foundations for a positive co-parenting relationship now.
- Your children have a right to see you both, and shouldn’t feel like they’re in the middle. Don’t involve them in arguments, badmouth their other parent, or ask your children to choose between you.
When you have children to consider, taking your ex to court and getting bogged down with a protracted, antagonistic divorce process is going to be detrimental to all of you. If possible, trying to take a cooperative approach is always best, and there are several out-of-court alternatives that may help you to come to a positive resolution. Mediation, collaborative family law, and family arbitration are all effective and productive methods of dispute resolution that keep children’s wellbeing at the centre of the process. These methods of separation aim to minimise blame and animosity, encouraging you and your ex to work together collaboratively instead of going head to head.
For more information on separation, mediation, collaborative family law, family arbitration, and parenting after divorce, the friendly family lawyers at Frances Lindsay & Co are here to take the weight off your shoulders.children's issues, divorce, resolution, separation