Supporting your children through your divorce

Sally Clark Blog

How to help your children cope

One of the things that makes us very different from other family law solicitors is our focus on the family issues that naturally arise when a relationship breaks down. A prime concern for most parents is the impact on their children and how they can best help them cope.

As specialists in family law and child inclusive mediation we understand the value of talking to children which is why we always spend time discussing these issues with our clients. Some of the things we might talk about are how and when to tell the children what is happening, if that hasn’t already been done, how to continue the conversation and ways in which they can be encouraged to share their worries and feelings.

Children can seem to be coping well on the outside but we know from the many child mediation sessions we have been involved in how difficult young people find it to share their own feelings. They will be very aware of the emotion and stress around them and conscious that they do not want to add to that. Some examples we have come across include children hiding letters about school trips because they have heard their parents talking about money worries or fearing that they may be forced to move school but keeping those concerns to themselves.

Even if your children seem to be coping well, it is worth taking time to go for a walk or take them out for tea so that you can ask them in a relaxed atmosphere whether there is anything troubling them. Reassure them that they won’t be making things worse by sharing their own worries.

This tendency to bottle things up seems to be stronger where parents have been unable to keep their emotions under control in front of their children and teenagers. Arguments and conflict can push young people to retreat to the safety of their rooms or their friends’ houses which can make it even more difficult to open a dialogue with them.

However, whilst it is important not to fight in front of the family, it is definitely not the case that parents should keep everything from their children. Teenagers in particular will value being involved in discussions about how things will work in the future, where they will live, how much time they will spend with each parent and what life will be like from now on.

You may be surprised by some of your children’s questions and concerns. Be prepared for their viewpoint to have an influence on yours and potentially alter some of the decisions you make about family life after separation or divorce. This is one reason why it is so important to let children have a voice as their perspective can help couples take a step back.

One other point worth mentioning is that children benefit from having stable boundaries during periods of conflict and change. Keep family rules in place and don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of over-indulging your children to compensate for any unhappiness you might believe you are inflicting on them. Children are resilient and adaptable but they do not respond well to mixed messages. However acrimonious your family breakdown, one of the most powerful things you can do to help your children is to be consistent, remain united as parents and maintain firm boundaries.

For information as to how we can help and a free initial consultation please contact us at enquiries@clarkfamilylaw.co.uk or telephone us on 01423 637272.