Relationship breakdown can be a very emotional time for children. Whilst children will react differently, depending on their age, personality and the individual situation, it is common for children to go through a whole range of emotions, which can include denial, anger, self-blame, sadness and withdrawal. However, with space, time and support they will work through their feelings and adjust.
How can you help your children?
- Tell your children what is happening. They don’t need adult information about the situation and they don’t need to know every detail, but they do need to know what is going on.
- Keep listening and talking to your children about their feelings, thoughts, worries and wishes.Children will adjust quicker if they are encouraged to talk about their fears and worries to someone who is prepared to listen and try to understand.
- Tell your children that it is okay to cry and don't make them feel guilty about feeling differently to you or showing affection or concern about their other parent.
- Keep reassuring your children that the divorce or separation is not their fault – children often think that it is.
- Try to encourage children not to ‘take sides’.
- Avoid asking your children who they want to live – they may feel they are being asked which parent they love more.
- Don’t burden your children with the responsibility of making decisions about the arrangements for them. It should be the parents responsibility to work the arrangements out, not the children’s.
- Encourage your children to keep following their usual routine, but don't force them.
- Don’t argue in front of the children. Children need to be kept away from any conflict between their parents.
- Try to resolve conflicts with your partner early - the longer you leave a problem, the worse it can be for your children.
- Don't use your children to negotiate for you and don't ask them to keep secrets or give you information about your partner.
Here are some great books to help your child cope with divorce or separation.
- It’s not your fault Koko bear
- Dinosaurs Divorce
- Two homes
- Mom’s house dad’s house for kids
- Was it the chocolate pudding
- Standing on my own two feet
If you are considering Family Mediation, talk to the mediator about the possibility of consulting the children as part of the process. This is called Direct Consultation with Children. If you both agree and the children want to meet the mediator, they will talk to your child confidentially. This gives your child a chance to say how it is in the family right now. The mediator will ask them if there is anything they would like their parents to take into account when making decisions which will affect them. Even if there is nothing in particular, this process can be very helpful in getting children to understand that their parents’ separation is not their fault and that what they have to say is important. Mediators will not ask children to make decisions or choose in any way between their parents. Usually this will only take one meeting and then feedback will be given to parents in accordance with the child’s wishes.
NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.