You and your partner may have decided to separate, but, if you have children, you will still have to work together to ensure your children are not negatively affected by your separation.
Whilst it has lost the stigma of years past, children can still find divorce to be upsetting. Some children are likely to feel angry or blame themselves for the issues at home, they may feel they have to choose between their parents, or, in some cases, feel like they need to take care of one or both parents.
It is normal for a child to grieve the separation of their parents, but there are a number of things you can do to help them cope with and adapt to the changes separation will cause in their lives.
Let Kids be Kids
While you and your partner do need to explain to the children that you won’t be living together anymore, it is important not to involve them more than necessary in any discussions of the topic. This means you and your ex still need to present a united front – this means no criticizing your ex in front of them, no letting them do things you and your ex have agreed are not allowed to win their favour, and no grilling them for information on new people in your ex’s life.
The younger your children, the less they need to know.
Be the Adult
Sometimes, one parent is careful to keep the best interests of the children in mind while the other either uses the children as a weapon to hurt the other parent or tries to win the children’s favour with toys and holidays.
So long as their behavior isn’t causing harm to your children, it doesn’t matter what your ex is doing. Don’t get sucked into competition, be consistent with rules, and generally try and work together for the benefit of your children and family.
As much as is possible with two households, try and keep family rules and schedules consistent regardless of which parent the children are with. This means bedtimes stay the same, they still go to soccer on Tuesdays, and no TV before breakfast applies at both mum and dad’s house. You will need to work with your ex to agree on these rules and then to stick to them.
Remember, You Are Still A Family
This doesn’t mean you need to do everything together, but it does mean you should both be at their Eisteddfod performances and school presentations and that you should probably help your child buy your ex a birthday or mother/father’s day present. Depending on the nature of the relationship between you and your ex, you may also spend time together with your children at family functions and outings with friends. All of this will help ensure your children have meaningful relationships with both parents.
Avoid the Blame Game
It is natural that your children will have questions about your separation and you should try to answer their questions honestly, but you should refrain from pointing fingers or assigning blame to your ex-partner. You may also want to consider keeping any details which may damage the relationship of your children with your ex partner (such as an affair) to yourself until the children are old enough to understand.
Reassure your children that both you and your ex still love them and that your issues with your ex (whatever they may be) are nothing to do with the children. Even if you have to repeat it until they are sick of hearing it, explain to your children that your separation doesn’t mean they are losing a parent or will have to choose between you.
There are programs for children available through Relationships Australia or other similar organisations as well as children’s books which are designed to help children understand separation and divorce..
At the end of the day, children who get sufficient support (from both sides) are more likely to have an easier time dealing with a divorce or separation.
If you are going through a separation, it is always best to seek some legal advice from a Lawyer experienced in Family Law. At Cairns Divorce Lawyers, we understand how difficult family separation can be, especially when children are involved. We are always happy to provide legal advice or assistance to help you. Contact us today on 4052 0700.