Advice to help your child deal with a separation

Posted by iChild, February 27, 2019 11:50 AM

By Henry Brookman

Getting divorced or separating from your partner is never easy. Once the life-changing decision is made, there are often a host of difficult emotions to wrestle with. But when children are involved, the level of stress you experience can seem insurmountable. To protect their children, parents may try to hide their decision from them. While this might seem sensible, it does more harm than good. Outlined below is some advice from senior divorce lawyer Henry Brookman (of Brookman Solicitors)  on how to handle a separation with children.

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Tell the truth

Children are pretty perceptive. Though you may try to hide a broken relationship from them, children can pick up on the subtle changes in behaviour. Naturally, you and your partner will conduct yourselves differently around each other. To avoid worrying your children, it’s better to come clean and tell them about your decision to separate. No matter what has gone on between you and your partner, try not to demonstrate any ill feelings towards each other during this conversation. If you attempt to provide reasons behind your decision, don’t point the finger at your partner or fire any negative comments at them.  Both parents should explain the situation together and should agree on what they’re going to share beforehand. Make sure you evaluate what information can be shared with your children, keeping in mind some information may not be suitable for little children to hear. 

Keep everything else the same

Your child is going to undergo a massive change in their lives. This can really scare them. After all, home is a place of security and it will no longer be the same. Predictability helps a child feel safe, so you will want your child to stick to their routines, such as the same specific mealtimes, bedtimes and of course, their school-related schedules. If your child has to go between two households, the routines should be the same at both places to make the change easier to cope with. The parents should reinforce the same rules and should not cancel or change decisions the other has made. Consistency and predictability are important factors in a child’s life when faced with separation.

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Continue to listen and reassure

The very first thing you need to do is tell your child the decision to separate is not their fault. Children can sometimes blame themselves or their actions for the split. You should reassure your child this is not the case. Your child may wonder if the parent leaving still loves them. They may worry the parent-child relationship will crumble. These concerns, along with discussions of visitations and a change in living arrangements can trouble your child. It’s important to encourage them to share their concerns and feelings and to address them with care. Remind your child that they are loved and supported by both parents and that they are never at fault.

Sometimes, your child may wish to speak to someone other than you for support. Finding a third party who isn’t involved in the situation might be a good idea, as they can help your child explore the situation from a neutral position. Some children may experience low appetite, anxiety, depression or sleep-related problems due to the separation. If you believe your child may be dealing with these issues, speak to a doctor or another relevant professional. If your child has witnessed any kind of abuse, professional advice should be sought and support provided.

Whatever happens, your child should feel able to share their feelings and worries with you. Make sure you spend less time talking and more time listening to your child to help them feel supported during this difficult time.

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You may also find this article interesting: Separation: What about the Children, written by Ali Valenzuela.

Henry Brookman is a divorce lawyer and senior partner at Brookman, a highly experienced family law firm, with expertise in a full range of family legal matters including divorce in the UK and internationally, complex financial issues, property settlements and children’s matters. Brookman is ranked by the Legal 500 and has been awarded the Law Society’s quality mark, Lexcel. For more information visit www.brookman.co.uk

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