If you are the parent of young children, your concerns for them are likely to be at the top of your separation worries. It’s good to know that the overwhelming majority of children are doing well within a year of their parents’ separation, despite all of the negativity and scary stories out there. Would your children want you to separate? In most cases not, but if that is to happen, they can be supported through it. Not without sadness, but without it wrecking their childhood.
There is a vast body of research on children and separation, but the same themes come through in all the studies, and that theme is that parents can make separation easier or more difficult for their children by the way they themselves behave. Nobody says it’s easy to smooth the path for your children, while dealing with your own emotional upheaval, but there are some clear sign posts to hang onto.
In 2017 I co-authored “Breaking Up Without Breaking Down” with Dr Tina Sinclair PhD psychologist, https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Up-Without-Down-Preserving/dp/0992317665. Our book has detailed information about ending your relationship, grieving and recovery. It also has helpful advice for how to best look after your children before, during and after your separation.
The top tip anyone can give you is to keep conflict away from your children, but it is also crucial to genuinely support and respect the other parent in the eyes of your children. You are probably thinking how much easier that is to say than to do, and you’re right.
So, here is the short version of our tips, with more depth available by following the link above.
- Speak to your children together about your separation, reassuring them they are loved and it is not their fault. Avoid blaming each other. This is not the place for that conversation.
- Don’t talk about your own worries or distress to your children, or in front of them. Your job now is to shield them from grown up worries, not to share with them.
- Keep your conflict and arguments away from your children. They really, really don’t want to be caught in the middle.
- Support the other parent so your children have what they are entitled to- a good relationship with both of you.
- Deal appropriately with your own anger. Seek counselling help and remember your children are probably not feeling the same way as you, and your anger can make them scared or worried for you.
- Be the best single parent you can be. Separation is not a holiday from parenting and hard as it is, being emotionally available for your children is priceless.
- Manage your own mental and emotional wellbeing. Not only do you need and deserve that, so do your children.
- Keep the people your children care about in their lives. If that includes your former in-laws, who can often takes sides in an extreme way, find a way to talk to them about making the best of it for the children.
- Be thoughtful about your children meeting the people you might be dating. Take a lot of time before introducing a new partner, and remember it’s unusual for children to fall in love with a person they see as replacing their Mum or Dad.
- Lastly, do keep funding your children’s expenses. Economic instability is always a risk after separation, don’t make it worse, and don’t let your children become anxious about money or how much you value them having what they need.
Remember, more help and support is only a phone call away. Call my office on 9939 6383 to speak to one of the friendly and knowledgeable people at the end of the phone. Mediation and Collaborative Practice is what we do, and in our circle are specialist child psychologists who can help both you, your partner and your children, to make the transition to two households with the last amount of pain possible.