Children and divorce
Just as divorce is a testing time for adults, it’s challenging and stressful for children. In this blog we look at ways you can support your children through the divorce process.
The impact of divorce on children
The first thing to say here is that if your marriage is bad, divorce is the best option, for your children as well as you and your soon-to-be-ex-husband.
The impact of an unhappy marriage on children is far greater than the impact of divorce. Children living with parents who are in a bad marriage experience many different feelings:
- Depression from tension in the house
- Feeling the need to blame themselves for making their parents unhappy
- A lack of identity as they are torn between rowing parents
- Fearing intimacy, because what is supposed to be a loving relationship wasn’t.
If divorce is handled sensitively, you can avoid or minimise these issues.
Divorce means the cat is out the bag, the elephant in the room is addressed. Crucially, for children, it means the adults take responsibility. Yes, it creates uncertainty as life changes. But if you approach your divorce in an honest way, your children will still feel safe and keep their trust in you. And you can support them through the process, as you seek support for yourself (check out my recent blog about exactly why it’s so important to look after yourself).
Children may experience a whole range of emotions as you divorce. They may feel sadness, loss of control, anger. They may still blame themselves – as though if they’d behaved differently you’d stay together.
It’s important to allow children to express these emotions, and to be clear about what the divorce is not about them. The children haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not about the children not being loved by either parent. It’s about the parents deciding they will be happier apart rather than together. And while that’s difficult, it will be better for everyone in the long term.
What to say and not say
Children know more than you think they do. Even young children will pick up on the atmosphere in the house and your tone of voice.
Keep talking to your children about the divorce. Let them know it’s not a taboo subject and all questions are OK. Keep communication simple and honest. That means you don’t need to tell them all the ins and outs of negotiations with your soon-to-be-ex-husband. But you can let them know what’s happening if they are interested, in words they understand.
Be careful not to blame their father or use derogatory language. Your child has a right to a good relationship with both parents, and they are not a weapon in your divorce. Family mediation is often helpful in making child-centred arrangements for the future with your ex.
When it’s high conflict
Family mediation is not appropriate if you are in an abusive or coercive situation. If this is the case for you, you need specialist help and advice. Seek out a lawyer who has experience of working with high conflict cases and talk to agencies such as Women’s Aid who can advise on keeping you and your children safe.
I can help you work through your divorce so you are in a strong position to support your children. I am also trained in supporting women through high conflict divorces. If you want help navigating your emotions and decisions, just message me to book in a free call.
The Divorce Alchemist
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma is featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com