Relationship breakdown – supporting children through divorce

A divorce or separation is inevitably an emotional and difficult time for all involved. For children, it can bring about feelings of uncertainty, confusion, stress, and worry. But, with consideration and parental support, many children can navigate a challenging situation in the best way possible. Associate Solicitor and family law specialist Lisa Cogger discusses how to prevent children from suffering during a relationship breakdown.

One of the most frequently asked questions from separating and divorcing couples is: how can we protect the children? Although your relationship is ending, you’ll continue to be parents. So planning how you’ll navigate the separation process and manage the new challenges of co-parenting is essential. Here are some points to consider:

Routine

The separation process can unavoidably lead to upheaval and disruption. This disturbance of the usual family routine can leave children feeling confused and distressed. Children feel safer when they understand what to expect. So wherever possible it’s helpful to maintain family routines like bedtimes, mealtimes, hobbies, school, or childcare arrangements. The familiarity of a regular routine can reduce stress, establish boundaries and set expectations.

Reassurance

In periods of uncertainty it’s important for children to realise that given time, the difficult situation they’re experiencing will be resolved. Offering reassurance and support is a comforting reminder to them that, although their family situation is changing, they’re still loved and cared for by both parents.

Questions & Answers

Children are naturally inquisitive and are likely to ask questions about the separation. It can be wise to plan how you’ll answer any questions in an age appropriate manner. Make your answers as simple as possible and provide the right level of detail for their understanding. For very young children simply explaining that ‘mummy and daddy don’t get along’, can be enough detail. Older children may be able to deal with more information; but it’s essential not to burden them or lean on them for emotional support.

Respect

It’s important that children don’t become involved in parental disagreements. Therefore, treating your former partner with respect and dignity, even amid the most acrimonious circumstances, is incredibly important. Irrespective of any adverse feelings you have for your ex-partner or the reasons around the separation, try to avoid attributing blame or speaking negatively about them in front of your children.

Communication

It’s perfectly normal for children to experience feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness and confusion during a marriage breakdown. Keeping the lines of communication open and assuring your children that they can speak to you about how they’re feeling is essential. It’s vital to listen to your children’s concerns and respond with a measured and calm approach. Demonstrating effective communication skills yourself ensures a good footing for your children to feel confident and comfortable to share their emotions or seek help if necessary.

Working Together

During a turbulent situation, it can often be hard to resolve conflict in a calm and balanced manner. Taking time to speak to your ex-partner away from the children is crucial. It also prevents them overhearing any disagreements. If possible, plan how you’ll deal with childcare during the split. Remaining measured and consistent will establish a united approach and demonstrate that although you’re no longer a couple, you’ll be parenting as a team.

If you’re currently going through a divorce or separation and need legal advice, our experienced, specialist team is on hand. Contact us today to arrange a convenient appointment.  We’re currently operating a COVID-secure appointment system via telephone. Call us to find out how we can help.

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