Making the extremely difficult decision to bring a relationship to an end and separate from your partner will undoubtedly be a distressing time for both of you and your families.
Particularly if you have children together, you may ask yourself questions such as, “but what about the children, how will they deal with this?”
You may have a fairly amicable relationship with your partner at this point, however family breakdown will raise a lot of different feelings and worries for your children.
While it would be impossible for there not to be some form of impact on them, we can offer advice to parents on how to support children during separation and divorce.
Sarah Hay, our Family Law Solicitor, looks at ways parents can support their children during separation for Mental Health Awareness Week (May 18-24).
She said: “Children are very receptive and will pick up on bad feelings between their parents and changes in their behaviour. It is important to remember that children will be affected by the separation just as much as the parents will.
“One piece of advice we’d offer is, be ready to answer any questions your child or children might have because they will be experiencing a lot of different worries and emotions about the situation.
“We also have to think about the child’s age and stage of development because if they’re quite young they probably won’t understand that much about what is happening.
“It is important however that the child has an outlet so they are able to discuss their worries in a safe and secure environment with you or with an individual they feel comfortable with.”
The key questions we are asked when liaising with clients are often where the children are going to stay and what’s going to happen with contact arrangements. It is important to try to reach an agreement as far as possible to provide stability and security to your children.
If you are not able to reach an agreement with the other parent about contact arrangements, there is a form, the Form F9 which can be completed by a child, with the help of a neutral third party (an adult helper, for example a teacher) to ensure that the child’s views about matters such as living arrangements and how often the child has contact with both parents can be conveyed and heard.”
The following practical advice may help;
- Allow your child to ask questions and listen to their worries and concerns. Try to be honest in your answers, while being mindful of their age and stage of development
- Try to maintain consistent routines in terms of school, hobbies, seeing their friends, etc, to provide stability
- Ensure your child knows they are not to blame for the separation and show love and compassion
- Make sure your child isn’t involved in any parental conflict and avoid negative comments about the other parent. Don’t use your child as a weapon to points score. Your child will feel confused and it is unfair
- Talk to the school or nursery so they are aware of the situation and can offer support
It is important to seek legal advice to know your rights and options when you make the decision to bring a relationship to an end. Contact us to discuss matters further.