The impact of separation on your children – a parent’s guide

When parents work together, they can safeguard the mental well-being of their children whilst going through the separation process.

“Should we stay together for the sake of the children?”

I’m sure that if you are currently going through a separation, and you have children, this question will be at the forefront of your mind.  For some couples, staying together isn’t an option as the only way forward is separation. However, some couples may see it as a viable option and a situation they could live with. Before you make any big decisions it’s worthwhile to get an expert’s perspective on the situation, because this will be one of the most important decisions of your life and the life of your children!

You might think of cover stories that you can tell your children such as why you’re sleeping in different rooms or why you don’t do things together as a family anymore. Staying together for the sake of the children is not something I would advocate. Parents who are miserable, angry, and bitter but seek to put a veneer over this for their children, are fooling no one. Children have great sensitivity and know when things are false. Even parents who believe themselves to be consummate actors are underestimating their children. Children hear and see so much more than parents realise. They will be aware of any tension, atmosphere, arguing, or stony silences. Sadly, the situations they find themselves in as a child will usually stay with them through their adult life and they will assume that this is normal behaviour in a relationship.

The impact of separation

A child will want to keep the family together regardless of how damaging this is because it’s all they know. Therefore, children do not make the decisions. They should never be asked to make decisions. It is essential that parents who are even at the stage of deciding to separate, must be prepared to work together from initially telling the children they are going to separate.

When parents work together to ensure there aren’t too many changes in the short term, children will feel secure and reassured. Particularly when their parents are telling them how much they are loved.

In the longer term, their parents will be happier because they won’t find themselves in a toxic relationship that is filled with conflict, anger, and hurt. In turn, this will have a positive impact on the children because they will no longer hear the arguments that they listened to from behind closed doors.

Protecting their world during separation

It’s also essential that the parents tell their children how this change in their family dynamics will affect them, because children will be aware that this is going to impact them massively in the short to longer-term. They’ll have questions running about their heads such as “where will I live?”, “will I need to move school?”, “will I see my friends again?”, “what about our pets?”. These questions might not have even entered their parent’s heads but to the children, this is their world, and they’ll want to protect it.

Staying together

Parents who can communicate or work together can give their children the same messages – how much they both love them, and this will never change. You can prove this over time by respecting your former partner… their other parent! Your relationship may have broken down but the relationship between your children and your former partner may not have, so it’s important that you don’t criticise or insult the other parent in front of your children. It’s also really important not to make promises you can’t keep, so it is essential to be on the same page.

Moving forward with the ‘new normal’

This spirit of co-operation between parents will need to continue on some level because there will be issues that they will both need to face in the future. As the parent’s lives move on, they may well meet new partners. Their new partners may have children of their own or they may decide that they want more children in their new relationship. Their children from the first relationship will want to know where they fit in and be reassured of their parent’s love. These issues can be sensitively dealt with if both parents can communicate with their children. Importantly, these things should not be rushed. Working together, the emotions of your children can be gauged and managed.

Parents will allow their children to thrive by working together. Children deserve this!

If you and your family are currently going through a separation and you feel that you need help with guiding your children through this process, get in touch with Nightingale Counselling today on 0141 353 9373 or by using the contact form on our Contact page.

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