Caring for your children in the face of separation

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STEVE CANAVAN: Making a molehill out of Malcolm, my very minor ailment

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News of parents separating seems to be coming by me lately with increasing frequency.

They say that parenting is the hardest job in the world – sticking at it together alongside all the other daily pressures seems downright impossible.

Maybe we are guilty of throwing in the towel too quickly these days? Sadly, I feel more surprised to meet parents who aren’t separated or who don’t have children from a previous marriage.

Being a single parent myself, it is a topic I know all too well, including the long list of emotions that come with separation; anger and guilt right up there at the top.

It’s great if you can maintain a friendly relationship after a split, but unfortunately no matter how amicable the circumstances, separation will unavoidably have an effect on your children.

How big an effect that is can depend on each child and their age. It can also be kept to a minimum by the way parents deal with the situation.

Like it or not, you are bound to each other as the parents of your children – good co-parenting requires constant re-evaluation.

When we separated, our son was three. Naively, we felt he was too young to understand and as such we never actually sat him down at that age and explained what was happening.

In hindsight, of course, this was the wrong thing to do and I suspect some behavioural issues could be linked to his confusion over the changes.

Now that he is a few years older we have sat down and explained the situation.

Soila Sindiyo is a therapist who helps families and children get through the difficulties of divorce.

As a twice divorced parent, she deeply understands the challenges faced by families going through divorce.

She has a great website and blog with advice about some of the issues co-parents face – from questions to ask your solicitor to dealing with Christmas.

Soila says that it is important to realise that the moment you tell them mummy and daddy are going to live separately might be something that they will always remember –- It is therefore critical that the news is given with a lot of thought and care.

Being prepared for what you are going to talk about and some of the questions you may receive is important, as well as picking the right time, the right words and the right place.

Soila also advises telling them together wherever possible. This may sound obvious but I have heard of cases where one parent takes it upon him/herself to talk to the children without the knowledge of the other.

If you cannot tell them together for whatever reason, she says to keep in contact with the other parent about how and when you are intending to have the conversation.

Most importantly, reassure them that it is not their fault in any way. Really make sure that they get this. See soila.co.uk for more advice from Soila.