For many parents, the hardest part of the divorce process is the effect it has on their children. We look at how you can help them come to terms with a new situation.
In 2012 the Office for National Statistics estimated that 42 percent of marriages would end in divorce. With children affected by many of these splits, we look at how best to help them cope.
Breaking the news
If possible, both parents should be present for this. Have an idea of what you will say and try your hardest to leave any anger or blame out of the conversation. The most important messages to get across are firstly that it is not the child’s fault and secondly that both parents still love them and will still always be around for them.
Dealing with their reactions
Whatever your children’s reactions, stay calm, be patient and try to understand their point of view. Let them talk as much as they need to and listen to what they say, even if it becomes repetitive.
Answer their questions as best you can, but avoid saying anything negative about their other parent, however badly you might feel they have behaved.
Try to reassure your children and give them as much information as you can about what will happen next. They are likely to feel anxious and insecure about the practical side of things as well as the emotional impact. For example, they will wonder where they will be living, whether they will be able to stay at their school and when they will see each parent.
It’s a good idea to try and keep to their normal routine as much as possible. Stick to any new schedule you agree with your ex as far as possible so that they know when they will be seeing each parent and which home they will be staying in.
Whatever has happened in the past, it is important to try and parent together as calmly as possible. Keep the channels of communication open and discuss any issues as civilly as possible. The goal should always be putting the children and their wellbeing first. Continuing discord between parents can be harmful, whereas presenting a united front will help children come to terms with what has happened. If you do have to have difficult discussions, do it away from your children.
Make sure your children know they can talk honestly to you about their feelings. Listen and let them know that you understand. At the same time, don’t be tempted to spoil them or let them behave badly without consequence. Ditching the rules won’t help them. They need to understand that while they can express themselves, there are still expectations around behaviour. If things become difficult for them, keep talking and, if necessary, find a professional who can help.