Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children??

by Peter Magee on May 5, 2016

Peter Magee

While my dramatic heading may have been a ploy to grab your attention (thank YOU Helen Lovejoy of ‘The Simpsons’ fame), now that I have it, I want to draw it to an area that I believe to be of high importance. I’d like to discuss a little about the effect of Family Law proceedings on children, and how parents can assist their own children through the tough time of separation.

Separation does not mean the end of your involvement or responsibility as a parent, no matter how often or how little time you may spend with your children. In fact, if anything, you need to take more care and be more responsive to your children and their emotional needs at this time. It is important to keep in mind that the way you handle separation very much affects how your children will cope with it.

Where possible, children need continuing affection and support of both their parents. More often than not this will require that you co-operate with your former partner, even in circumstances where you may not see eye to eye.

From a family lawyer’s perspective, I have been exposed to many different reactions from children to the separation of their parents.

A common occurrence amongst children going through a separation is the feeling of being pushed one way by one parent, and then pulled back by the other. Often parents are not even aware that they are doing this, or how their actions may affect the children. An example of this occurs where one parent openly discusses another parent’s “shortcomings” or “wrong doings” with friends and family, or feelings of betrayal with or in the presence of the children. When parents hold onto bitter feelings and express them to the children, the children are then caught in the middle of the conflict, and start to suffer.

Another common feeling among children of separated parents is that they are to blame for the separation. Children who blame themselves for their parents' fighting have also been found to be at greater risk of poor social and emotional adjustment following their parents’ separation. Children of any age need reassurance that they are not to blame, and never more so than during a painful separation. If parents are respectful towards each other and the decisions made in the lead up to the separation, children will learn that separation is ok. When it comes to children, it can be far less damaging to go through a family breakdown, than to continue to live in an unhappy family environment where there is extreme tension and high levels of conflict in the home.

The best thing a parent can do for their children is to shield them from any ongoing conflict. As parents, you must do your best to be pleasant to the other parent. Of course this is not always possible, however, the general rule of thumb is – you set the example and your children will follow.

It can be difficult to ensure that your children and their welfare remain protected, while trying to look after yourself during a time of separation. It is perfectly normal to experience feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, jealousy, guilt and despair. Where those feelings continue, however, it may be a good idea to seek some counselling as your anxiety and stress will inadvertently affect your children’s’ adjustment to separation. If you are happy and well, your children will be too!

The most important thing to remember as parents of children who are going through separation is that you do have something in common and in most cases that is the best interests of the children.

Ensure that your children know that both their parents still love them and speak positively of the other parent when speaking to your children. Finally, let your children know that even though the separation feels hard right now, and they may be upset, things will soon improve for everyone involved.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: