A huge number of children are affected by divorce. In 2010 according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, half of divorcing couples had at least one child under sixteen. For the first time in eight years, the statistics also show a 4.9% increase in divorces, to 119,589 in the same period.
Staying together ‘for the sake of the children’, often creates unhappiness for both the couple and their children. Ensuring the children are informed and have an understanding of what is going on is important. Involving children in the decision making process is not advisable although telling children at an early stage that Mum and Dad may split up will prevent a loss of trust at the later stages of the divorce.
The children must understand they are loved by both parents and must have time to spend with both. Any feelings of conflict of loyalty must be prevented by ensuring that children are encouraged to enjoy time with both parents.
Honesty is important in preventing children from developing feelings of guilt or responsibility for cause of the divorce. Any questions that children may have about moving house or schools, for example, must be honestly answered, despite the difficulties. This is to prevent children feeling that their behaviour or other actions caused the divorce in the first place.
It is truly sad but often inevitable that children are going to in most cases feel distressed, angry, frustrated and in some instances to blame for the divorce. It is therefore of paramount importance that these feelings are discussed with the children and allowances for unusual behaviour are made. It is also important that discussions about the children’s feelings with the other parent are carried out by you and not your children.
The child’s age will directly affect the levels of support necessary – and often it’s really helpful to get good professional advice when one or both parents are unsure of how to deal with their children during a divorce.
Keeping a positive attitude towards your ex-partner is really important, as is ensuring you do not denigrate him or her, especially in front of the children. Children should never be used as a go-between – to convey messages to the other parent. If you need to talk with the other parent, do it directly and always remember that children require love and honesty.