Divorce – how do you support your children through the process?

One of the biggest worries mothers have about divorce is how it will affect their children. Divorce is an emotional and practical upheaval for all involved.  For children in particular it can feel like their familiar routines have been thrown up in the air and their world turned upside down. So, on divorce –  how do you support your children through the process?

The first, and perhaps, most important issue to address here is this: if your marriage is unhappy, you are doing the right thing by getting divorced – both for yourself and for your children.

A quick Google search on the effects of unhappy marriage on children will confirm this for you. As an example, this short Psychology Today article explains the effects of staying in a bad marriage have on children. And a 2015 survey by family law organisation Resolution found that 82% of the polled children would prefer their parents to part if they were unhappy.

I wanted to get clear on that upfront, because divorce brings with it a lot of guilt and shame baggage, especially with children involved. So, to reiterate the point: if your marriage is no longer a good one, your children will benefit in the long run from you getting divorced.

But how do you support your children through the divorce process? There are a number of steps you can take:

Make time for your children

All children will respond to their parents’ separation and divorce differently. They may feel resentful and distance themselves from you. Your children may feel the need for extra demonstrations of love and become extra ‘clingy’, or anything in between.

What all children have in common is the need to feel loved and know where they stand. So be as open with them as possible. As far as possible, agree how and what you are going to tell them with your soon-to-be-ex-husband. Putting the children’s needs first is what I call child-centred divorce. It’s best for your children, and it’s also what the courts are focussed on.

Go for family mediation

If you apply for a court order in respect of your children, you must meet with a family mediator. After an initial meeting you may decide mediation isn’t for you, or the mediator may decide it’s not suitable. But in many cases, mediation gives you a place to work through unresolved issues and speak honestly.

Mediation can help you ensure your divorce is child-centred, rather than being drawn into power struggles with your ex. In some cases it’s also possible for your children to speak with a mediator, if you all agree. This can help children feel as though their needs and wishes have been heard.

Create a Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan is a document you draw up with your ex outlining how you will both parent going forward. It can include everything from principles and guidelines for how you will both parent your children, to practical arrangements for ensuring children get to social activities and clubs. It can also include annual events, such as how you will handle holidays, Christmas and birthdays. You can read more about parenting plans here.

While a Parenting Plan isn’t a legally binding document, it is a good way for you and your soon-to -be-ex-husband, along with your children, to get clear on expectations. It can also help guide future decisions.

Get clear on what’s right for your family

Taking these steps is easier said than done.  I get that. We can never control how others behave, so what happens if your children are acting differently to your expectations, or their father isn’t playing ball? Despite all your best intentions  a child-centred divorce, it does take two. What if you don’t know where to start with the Parenting Plan?

As a specialist family court adviser for several years, I’m an expert in helping you deal with all aspects of divorce relating to your children.  From how to talk to children about divorce, to helping you discuss new arrangements that will suit the whole family. I can help.

Importantly, I can also provide a safe space for YOU as you try to look after everyone else’s needs. That’s exactly what my Clarity Over Coffee weekly call and email service is for – space for you to talk about whatever you need to and receive information you can trust. 

If you want someone by your side as you navigate the emotional and practical aspects of child-focussed divorce, and answer the question; divorce – how do you support children through the process? book in to see how Clarity Over Coffee can help you.

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 has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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