Coping with Children in the midst of Divorce or Separation
In this article, we consider the impact of divorce or separation on your children
At least 50% of all 16-year-olds now live with separated parents and this statistic is increasing as every decade passes. It is now rather more “normal” rather than “abnormal” as compared to when many readers were at school. As a result, there is much more support for children both in and out of the home environment at school and within the health service.
How children react to the demise of their parents’ relationship depends very much on their own age, personality and surrounding circumstances but can be heavily influenced by the level of animosity created by the adults. However you, as a parent, might be hurting, it goes without saying that those children who survive the best are those who witness the least conflict, suffer less disruption, are shielded from negative comments about the other parent and continue to have a good relationship with both sides of the family.
Wonderful parents can do some terrible things don’t let your children suffer the consequences of toxic behaviour
Breaking the news that Mum and Dad are to live apart can be a huge shock and worry to children ~ try to have this conversation together with your partner and pre-plan what you are going to say. It may be one of the most significant pieces of news you will ever deliver. Be child-focused and calm as to the reasons and keep the ‘blame-game’ well and truly outside the living room door.
Seek advice and support from professionals and family
Be prepared for those awkward questions which may follow one day, one week or one year later. Many, many children feel somehow as if they are to blame ~ they need to be reassured that although their parents may have fallen out of love, the love between parent and child has not and will never be broken.
Consider the practicalities and agree on them as far as possible
Where will the children be living, will they have to move, will they still see their friends, where will they go on holiday ~ children will have many questions ~ most will be expected ~ some less so but try to be honest and consistent. It will inevitably be stressful and upsetting which is why you need the support network around you as detailed in my last article.
Take the moral high road by not letting your hurt, jealousy or anger spill out in front of the children ~ that should not be within earshot of your kids no matter what the circumstances of the separation. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that children of separated parents can grow up more resilient and more versatile but those positives can be lost if they get dragged into the adult dispute.
Don’t use the children as a post-box or verbal punchbag they don’t want to pass messages to and fro – they will expect their parents to communicate and communicate well. If you can’t face direct discussion text or email but think “what if a lawyer (or even worse) a judge ends up reading this” or even more importantly “what if my son/daughter ever saw this”.
Finally, a gentle warning about social media, be careful what you post and what your children might see on social media. It is important that you appreciate the potential pitfalls of posting personal information about your children online without consent, particularly as data protection laws are due to be enhanced.
A simple photo or video can appear across several social network platforms. Parents all too frequently use pictures of their children on dating apps and websites, which can create understandable conflict between co-parents.
The information shared by parents, particularly by separated or divorced couples, about their children is a relatively untouched area of law. With the world now entering the second decade with prolific social media, parents must be aware of breaching their child’s privacy rights; the 2017 Queen’s Speech referenced the upcoming 2018 Data Protection Bill, will require social media platforms to delete personal data posted by children while they were under the age of 18.
Disputes can arise where parents don’t feel they have been consulted before any posts or photos are uploaded. It might sound more like something you would create at work but it’s important to agree a ‘social media policy’ between both parents and children around the use of such sites so that everyone knows what the boundaries are.
More and more I’m speaking to clients who have either themselves or their ex-partner, shared sensitive information online, even information about their ongoing cases which could result in contempt of court.
This only further highlights the need for parents to be aware of what they’re posting online and how to go the right way about protecting their children.
•The child comes first the best interests of the children should always be at the heart of any decision.
•Point-scoring children shouldn’t be used as a form of manipulation, such as posting pictures of fun days out with their new extended family with the intent of hurting you’re ex -partner.
•Announcements a similar issue, parents ‘announcing’ their new relationships on social media,
without prior thought to how this can affect their child or cordiality with their ex-partner. It could also have bearing on an on-going divorce.
•When the courts get involved during court proceedings the issue becomes even more important,
as too much information being shared publicly could be considered a potential child welfare
issue by the courts and can be used as evidence when issuing orders.
Parents going through a divorce should always be aware of the concerns over how pictures and information can be used against them in court.
Divorce and Separation can be a major crisis for any family but if you and your former partner work well together and communicate civilly for the benefit of the children; consistent and coordinated parenting can be just as much a source of great strength for children from two households as one. A joined-up approach prevents children using the separation to justify his or her poor or rebellious behaviour ~ or playing one parent off against the other to get their own way.
Your past sets the platform for their future try to ensure it gives the children hope not heartache.
If this article has prompted any queries or questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org