Helping kids to understand and cope with divorce

October 21, 2017  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

divorcing with children

Even the most amicable separation between parents cannot help but affect your children – it can be a difficult process for you all – but a little understanding, plenty of patience, and clear communication are the keys to getting through the tough times.

Our family lawyers have years of experience working with separating parents and resolving children’s issues, whether it’s via mediation, court divorce, or collaborative family law. Read on for their most valuable advice for helping children to come to terms with parental divorce:

  • Contact your solicitor as early as possible to discuss the best option for your circumstances. Cooperative approaches like mediation or collaborative family law can be tailored around children to keep them at the centre of all decisions and minimise animosity between you and your ex.
  • Don’t pretend nothing’s wrong. Kids often know something is wrong long before you make the official ‘announcement’. They may be anxious about the uncertainty but reassuring them that although things might change they will still be loved and taken care of is a positive first step.
  • On the flip side, try to avoid exposing your children to outright rows and disputes. They do not need to be involved in arguments between you and your partner.
  • Be honest with your children and explain your plans for separation as early as possible so they know what to expect. For children, the fear of the unexpected can be worse than the event itself.
  • Be mindful of the wider repercussions to your children’s lives – they may see less of grandparents, or find family friends ‘choosing sides’, have to change schools, move house, or drop extracurricular activities. Let them know that some of these changes are temporary and it will take time to get into a new routine.
  • Although dealing with the ‘big issues’ – such as where your children are going to live, and the division of time with each parent – will naturally take priority, don’t forget about the little anxieties your children might be worrying about. A Catherine M. Wallace comes to mind, here: “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all it has always been big stuff.
  • Be prepared for the impossibility of trying to please everyone at once. Divorce proceedings involving children can be complicated and sensitive, and your children’s well-being is much more important than any personal vendetta against your ex. While it’s important to consider your children’s opinions and choices, it will also sometimes be necessary for you to make decisions that they may not be happy with.
  • When it comes to big events like birthdays and holidays, give yourself plenty of lead up time to plan and collaborate with your ex. Be aware that you may not get things right first time – working out how to make things fair can be a case of trial and error – but arrangements can always be amended.
  • Don’t make your children your arbitrators – even if it’s something seemingly as innocuous as having them deliver messages to your ex, or update you on your ex’s personal life. This is not their job, and it can put them in an awkward position.
  • If you feel you need some extra help, consider attending family counselling sessions. Separation can be a positive experience for all of you, and teach your children that while some relationships may not always last forever, they can be resolved with dignity and mutual respect.
  • Remember that anger is often a mask for sadness. “You have to be safe enough to be sad. If they can’t be sad, they have to rely on anger. Anger keeps them safe from sadness, vulnerability, and joy.” – Dan Hughes. Be patient, let them shout and scream if they need to. But keep the channels of communication open.
  • And believe us – things will get better.

For more advice on mediation, separation, collaborative family law, and children’s issues, please get in touch with the friendly family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co. Let us take the weight off your shoulders and help you find a solution that’s right for your family.


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