Advice From 8 Experts; Dealing With Children During Divorce

March 1, 2016

Divorce is an inevitably difficult time for all involved. But amongst the turmoil of separation, are our actions made with our children fully in mind? When divorce is inevitable are we too easily sucked into mind games, jealousy and rivalries? Divorce is something you will never get used to, in the respect that it won’t happen every week. It is therefore our pleasure to be able to present to you a selection of experts, all of which have dealt with divorce in some form. Our experts consist of teachers, councilors, therapists and community leaders. We asked our experts; what advice would you give to divorcing parents on how to deal with their children? Here are their responses;

Young Minds – www.youngminds.org.uk

Mental Health Organisation For Young People

"Separation may mean children losing the home they are used to, changing school and losing friends, not seeing one parent on a regular basis and hearing their parents rowing.
Coping with these changes is not easy for anyone, and many children feel sad, guilty, angry and abandoned. These feelings can lead to emotional and behavioural problems, such as disobedience, nightmares or clinginess. As a parent, you may be dealing with very difficult feelings yourself and it is sometimes hard to protect your children from these.

However it is important to try and show them they are loved by both parents, and that the problem is not their fault. Try not to argue in front of them or use them in your disputes and if possible ensure they have a relationship with both parents, however acrimonious your split has been.

Children should not be made to feel bad about missing the parent that no longer lives with them."

Priya Chandra – www.desiblitz.com

Author at DESIblitz, The Nations Leading South Asian Magazine/Website

Any couple with children going through a divorce means that the decision does not just impact them but the whole family.

For British Asian parents, it is no different, but culturally, where divorce was not once common - most parents stayed together for the sake of the children, family and community. Today, this has all changed and divorce is soaring in the Asian community (http://www.desiblitz.com/content/soaring-rate-of-british-asian-divorce).

Commonly, the mother gets custody of the children and if the divorce is amicable, the father gets rights to see the children. But this is not always the case.

The impact on the children of parent divorcing can be huge especially, if the divorce is not a pleasant one. Therefore key advice for divorcing parents to deal with children is:

1. Give children as much possible support when they are told about the divorce - because they will feel fearful of the future without both parents

2. Do not use your children as a 'political football' in the divorce

3. Do not get the children to take sides

4. Think about providing dual care if possible.

5. If the divorce is not amicable, then ensure the children get maximum support emotionally and financially

6. Get support from the family network e.g. grand-parents

7. Find a means to ensure there is contact for both parents to provide some stability

8. The mother should not prohibit the father from seeing the children

9. The children need to be told the truth but at the right age re. the reasons for divorce

10. Do not put one parent down in front of the children.

Annie & Abi (Aged 14) - www.voicesinthemiddle.org.uk

Participants of Voices in the Middle – A UK Charity aiming to bring comfort to young people through divorce

1. Recognise that we love and need both parents.

2. Don’t turn us into messengers. Parents should talk directly to each other.

3. Don’t say bad things about our other parent.

4. Don’t grill us about what is going on at our other parents house.

5. Don’t ask us to take sides.

6. Don’t make us feel like we are being disloyal to you if we enjoy being with our other parent.

7. If you have something angry to say to our other parent don’t say it around us.

8. Don’t purposely forget important clothing or gear when we are going to our other parents place.

Originally written by the children of divorce’s bill of rights www.voicesinthemiddle.org.uk/story/children-divorce-bill-of-rights/

David Didau - www.learningspy.co.uk

Author of ‘What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong

My only meaningful advice to divorcing parents is to keep it civilised and to remain adult in their dealing with each other and their children. Obviously that’s a lot easier said than done and I understand that the end of a relationship is a huge emotional upheaval. Bitterness, recrimination and anger, no matter the perceived right of an offended party to feel these emotions, will not help anyone and can have a devastating effect on children. I remembering reading that horrific as it is to have a parent die, children recover from this trauma more readily than they do from divorce and that is primarily to do with the negative emotions and spiteful behaviour exhibited by parents.

Sure, divorce happens, but it doesn’t have to descend into petty tit-for-tat exchanges and ill will. Remember, being a parent is more enduring and more important than being a husband or a wife.

Bob Brotchie - www.angliacounselling.co.uk

Therapist

1. While you and your partner are separating and your emotions are 'charged', do remember your children and others who may depend on you will also be feeling anxious and challenged.

2. Agree, at all costs, to share a united, consistent approach to the separation which confirms that the dependents ARE safe, loved, and this will continue.

3. Never, ever use your anger, resentment and any power you may have to get at the other partner, by way of the children. It puts them in an impossible position. Point scoring is not cool!

4. Similarly, never coach children to try and get the estranged parent to return.

5. Regardless of the actual or perceived cause of a relationship breakdown in which children are going to be involved, the kids will have cause to wonder in which way they are complicit.

Jay Krunszyinsky - www.relationshiprepair.net

Author & Life Coach

One of the biggest questions that I have pondered as a life coach is: How do the divorced parents remain emotionally well and supportive during the initial stages of the divorce when the children need an environment of love and compassion? The question is more about how the parents can deal with their emotional state more than how they will manage their children. If a parent possesses a positive and loving emotional state, his or her natural inclination will be to be loving and supportive to his or her children. In response, the children will manage the upcoming changes much better. When the parents react to each other in negative and undermining ways, the children will respond in maladaptive ways to the ensuing unrest and uneasiness.

Children are impacted by the emotional state of their parents. When or if they enter a negative emotional state, parents will project their negativity outward creating more instability in their children's lives. Many times, at least one parent is more negatively impacted by the divorce and cannot easily move to a improved state of mind during the initial stages. The negative feelings of betrayal, loss, or any other negative state come from beliefs that one lacks what is needed to be happy. Both parents need to find ways to neutralize their negative beliefs about each other and any other fears in order to engage each other and the children in supportive, honest, and respectful ways.

Karan – Editor of www.thisrelationship.com

Relationship Advisor

First of all the parents should talk to each other and should try to settle the things silently and with understanding, if not for them then for the sake of their children at least but if things have already gone out of their hands then nobody can do anything.

The first thing children should be told with the growing age is that choosing the partner carefully is really very important and if their parents had a divorce then that doesn't mean marriage always proves to be unsuccessful. Here are few points which a parent should consider teaching them:

Choose the partner carefully who is always there for you.

1. Marriage is the bond which is one of the strongest among all he relations and it should be respected (this will keep their belief alive).

2. If you are a single mother of a boy then never forget to teach him the importance of wife, he should keep this thing in mind- A girl leaves her family, her lifestyle, her likes-dislikes, even her surname just to make your world beautiful then it is your responsibility to take care of her, treasure her and treat her the way you want your daughter to be treated by her husband.

3. Make them understand the reasons, tell them the truth that made you had a divorce (only if they understand this thing, don't do this if they are very young to understand all these), this would be a great lesson for them.

4. Most importantly, teach them how to adjust, tell them they have to adjust at some stages in life, never ever make silly decisions in anger and try to adjust and make things go smooth.

5. If they have been into depression seeing you getting separated then to help them get out of it never show your sadness, your loneliness to them, be happy with them, take them out, show your love.

Jo Payne - www.mrspteach.com

Teacher & Blogger

As a teacher, there are two main bits of advice which I would give to parents going through a divorce.

Firstly, keep the school informed. I don’t just mean letting your child’s teacher know that you and your partner are splitting up, although that is important. Inform school staff of any changes, however slight you feel they are. School is completely away from the home situation and sometimes children save their feelings and emotions for such a place. The more teachers know about what is happening at home, the less they have to discover from children. When teachers know there are two homes which the child is returning to, they can prepare two sets of letters, resources or information. It is also useful for the staff, as well as the child, to know who is picking them up on which days and when any new adults/children come into the child’s life through the family situation.

Secondly, no matter how horrible the situation becomes, ensure that the education of your child is something you work as a team to support. Come to parents evenings together, sit next to each other at performances and both help with homework. As a teacher, it is important to know that the whole family is on side regarding the child’s education. More importantly, though, you are sending the message to your child that they are important and that, though you are apart now, you are together in supporting and nurturing them and their education.

Cari Rosen - www.gransnet.com

Editor - Gransnet

Divorce can be difficult for the wider family as well as those going through the separation. But it can also be a time where grandparents can really make a positive difference.

Try to keep your relationship with your grandchildren on as normal a footing as you can: they are having to adjust to big changes in their lives so consistency from another source can be hugely beneficial. Offering an objective ear (they key being objective...) whenever they want to talk can also be a great help.

Many Gransnet members have found themselves in this position - and have been happy to share their experiences to help anyone going through it now. Their wisdom includes:

1. Let the children know how loved they are.

2. Offer lots of hugs, laughter and warmth.

3. Keep things relaxed and cheerful. Let them understand that your home is a place where they are always welcome and where they can put their worries aside for a while.

4. Offer them space and opportunity to talk if they want to

5. Remind the children that they are NOT to blame for the split

6. Make sure you never put them in a position where they have to choose where their loyalties lie

7. Remember that it's best for everyone (you included) to keep things as amicable as possible. Even if that can't be done, continue to do what you can to be supportive, objective and welcoming to both sides.

Terry Gaspard - www.movingpastdivorce.com

Therapist, Blogger, and Author of Daughters of Divorce

1. Pick a time and location that is private and works best for your children when you talk to them about your divorce. Avoid having discussions the night before they have a big test, an audition for a school play, etc. Accept that things may get emotional and that children express their feelings in different ways. Strive to listen and show empathy to them when they express negative emotions rather than getting defensive.

2. Don’t bad-mouth the other parent. Keep in mind that children cope better after divorce when they have a close relationship with both of their parents. So if they ask why you divorced, consider saying something like, “Your dad and I have tried really hard to get along, and it’s just not working anymore.” Avoid: “Your dad has a bad temper.”

3. Reassure your children. Explain that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the divorce and there isn’t anything they can do to fix it. Remind your kids that you love them very much and nothing will change that. The most important thing is to explain that your breakup has nothing to do with them. Plan on repeating this message fairly often.

4. Tell your kids what will change, and what will stay the same. After a divorce, children crave predictability and constancy more than ever. They’ll probably have basic questions about what will happen next, like “Where will I live?” or “Who will take me to school?” This is why having a parenting plan in place is so important. Several co-parenting websites offer a “custody calendar.” Explain where mom and dad will live, and how often you will both see them. Discuss important things related to their routine, and underscore what is staying the same, like: “Mom will still drive you to school every morning.”

5. Tell the honest, simple truth, and encourage questions. It’s impossible to predict your children’s reaction but be up front about your divorce “from the start.” It’s important that all of their questions are answered as honestly and completely as possible. You don’t need to give your kids more information than they need, such as: “Dad has cheated on mom twice in the past year.” But you can give them basic information such as: “Mom and Dad have fallen out of love, but still love you very much.”

6. Remind your kids that you want to encourage an open dialog as time progresses. The first conversation you have, when you break the news of the divorce, should not be the last. Your divorce will unfold in your children’s life in unexpected ways as they mature. If your children know you’re open to continuing the conversation, everyone’s best interests will be protected.

7. Let your children know that you plan to date (if you do) but that you won’t introduce them to anyone unless you’re fairly sure the relationship is serious or more than casual. You want to reassure them that your time with them is special and you’ll be sure to keep it sacred. Also, tell your kids that you need time for socializing and you’ll be refreshed if you carve out time for friends.

Follow Terry on movingpastdivorce.com & Twitter. Her new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup And Enjoy A Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship” can be found here.

Story Massage for Children - www.storymassage.co.uk

Children's Therapist 

At Story Massage we have a specific method in which we encourage adults to talk with their children, this combines positive touch with words. It is now being used as a valuable way of helping children to explore and understand different and difficult emotions.

Our advice would be to take this beautiful and heartfelt Story Massage which was written by a grandmother on one of our recent training days. It contains such a powerful message of love and hope that we wanted to share it with you as it could offer an alternative approach to dealing with children during divorce.

Your family is not broken…

Mummy has gone one way. (Half fan)

Daddy has gone another. (Half fan)

It’s still okay to love Mummy. (Circle)

It’s still okay to love Daddy. (Circle)

Mummy and Daddy love you. (Circle)

Sometimes you get angry. (Drum)

Sometimes you get sad. (Sprinkle)

But that’s okay. (Calm)

It feels like your family is broken. (Sideways Wave)

But it’s not. It’s only cracked. (Wave)

For everyone is still here. (Circle)

Aunties, uncles, cousins, Grandad, Nanny. (Circle)

You are very loved. (Circle or Heart)

Our Story Massage book, resources and training options are based on ten simple positive touch strokes. The strokes, all with descriptive names such as The Wave or The Fan, are easy to remember and can be readily adapted to familiar stories or used to create your own special story massages for your own children.

To find our more about our One Day Training Courses in Story Massage please visit our website.

Michelle Thompson - www.mummyandmemagazine.co.uk

Editor - Mummy & Me Magazine

"If you and your partner have taken the decision to separate, the important thing when children are involved, is to reassure the child(ren) that they are still very much loved. At a time of great change, it is important to provide your child(ren) with as much stability as possible. If there are any ill feelings between you and your partner, try to avoid confrontation in front of your child(ren) and try to resolve issues between yourselves when your children are not present. Ultimately, because you may not love your partner anymore, you should always make your child aware that you still love them."

Jane McNeice - www.mindmatterstraining.co.uk

Director - Mind Matters Training

When a couple decides to separate or divorce the effects on the children are often determined by how effective, or ineffective, the parents are in supporting and managing the transition.

So why when most parents love their children should it be that, all too often, the process is ineffective and children are left feeling confused, hurt, responsible, and many other negative emotions?

At the point when parent’s separate or divorce, they are often going through a particularly difficult time themselves. They too may be hurt, confused, and coming to terms with the new or forthcoming changes. Their own coping mechanisms may not necessarily be positive, resulting in unhealthy reactions and behaviours that don’t facilitate the best for their children. Most parents won’t intentionally cause hurt or emotional harm to their children, but they may inadvertently do this because of what they are going through.

When supporting your child, or children, through separation and divorce here are some useful points to consider:

Are you managing your own health and emotional wellbeing effectively? Failure to look after your own wellbeing can lead to unhealthy behaviours that consequently affect others in a negative way. It is essential to seek help for yourself at the earliest opportunity e.g. talking to a therapist, or other professional who may be able to assist.

Listen It is essential that your children are listened to and feel heard. This is also an opportunity to check understanding and clear up any misunderstandings your child, or children, may have.

Be honest Children, like anyone, need to feel able to trust those around them. In particular they need to trust the significant adults in their lives - in most cases this is the parents. It is also important that parents consider what discussions are age appropriate for their child, or children.

Remind your child, or children, they are loved Children need to feel safe, secure, and loved in any situation, in particular when they are going through a potentially difficult change.

Expression Children may not be able to express how they feel very easily. Consider opportunities and ways for your child, or children, to express how they feel. This may be through talking about how they feel, moods, or by using other communication media such as pictures.

Seek help Remember there is often a wide team of support around you and your children e.g. schools, nurseries, GP’s, community organisations, health practitioners, relatives, and friends. Seek support from others, and ensure those who need to be aware know about the changes that your child, or children, is experiencing.

Further emotional support for both adults and children can be accessed from the Mind Matters website www.mindmatterstraining.co.uk