A recent report by parenting website Netmums revealed that divorcing parents may not be aware of the impact their separation has on their children. A survey of 1,000 parents and 100 children suggested many families find it hard to communicate their feelings about divorce, leaving children unable to speak up about their feelings. The report displayed a worrying discrepancy between the perspectives of parents and children following a separation.
From the children’s point of view, almost half of respondents felt as if they had to hide their feelings from their parents, while 14% said they weren’t able to be honest about how upset they were. One in 12 children also claimed they were forced to take on adult roles in order to look after a parent during their relationship breakdown. “There was no point in telling my parents how I feel as they are too wrapped up in themselves,” was the sad assumption for one in five children. And while 35% of children said that one of their parents had attempted to ‘turn them against’ the other, this type of behaviour was only admitted to by 8% of the surveyed parents. The report also displayed concerning instances of self-harm, substance abuse and attempted suicide in children looking for ways to cope. Yet only one in 100 parents reported being aware of these issues despite one in five children drinking alcohol and one in five self-harming as a result of the divorce.
Parents taking part in the study consistently underestimated the effect that their situation had on their children – 77% of parents reported that their children coped well with their divorce while only 18% of children claimed to be happy that their parents were separated. With many children blaming themselves for the separation, a mere 5% of parents realised that their kids were feeling this way. Some parents also struggled with admitting to their children that they were separating with 13% of children finding out by overhearing a row, and a saddening 1% being told by text message.
As family lawyers trained in mediation and collaboration we often work with families and couples who are in need of support in communicating with each other in the course of a relationship breakdown. Even when children are grown up, separation can still have a massive effect on their lives and family relationships, and – while understandable – divorcing parents sometimes forget the impact their situation has on others while struggling to come to terms with it themselves.
Resolution is a great resource for parents dealing with a separation, while your family law solicitor will be able to provide additional support and point you in the direction of local groups or organisations that offer help for parents. There are several alternative methods of divorce and separation which offer a less confrontational approach and do not require you to go to court – especially beneficial when children are involved. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law are all processes of separation which can be carried out using a solicitor, family lawyer or arbitrator, providing a more family-based solution that may help you to communicate better with your children at each step of the way. In every separation, communication is a key element in finding a positive outlook – for you and your children. At Frances Lindsay & Co our aim is to take the weight off your shoulders so that you can focus on what’s important: your family – please get in touch to speak to one of our family lawyers.
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