Family Therapist and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor Leia Monsoon shares her experience of how separating parents can help to limit the impact of conflict on their children.

Divorce is something that happens between adults, but the effects are often felt by children.

Divorcing is one of the most stressful situations adults can go through. It can be exceptionally painful whether you have made the decision or whether someone has made the decision for you.

When children are involved, the level of guilt we feel increases. Will our children be ok? Will we be able to give them a good life? What will their friends think? Will this mess them up?
Don’t worry. Divorce doesn’t have to hurt children. In fact, research shows that children whose parents are divorced do not do any worse in school, are not anymore likely to have impaired relationships, are not more likely to have mental health issues or be more involved in criminal behaviour than their peers.

This is a parenting charter, an ideal plan of how to support your children through the changes, because its not about your rights as parents, but your children’s rights.

CHILDREN HAVE THE RIGHT TO:

  • Be at the centre of any decisions made about their lives – But not hold the responsibility of making decisions.
  • Feel free to love and be loved by both parents – Don’t talk bad about the other parent, whatever they may be doing.
  • Know and have contact with both sides of their families, including siblings who may not live with them, as long as they are safe.
  • A childhood, including freedom from the pressure of adult concerns, such as financial worries – If there is an adjustment to a standard of living after divorce, help your children understand, accept and make the best of it rather than get upset or angry on their behalf.
  • Financial support and protection from poverty – If you earn more than the other parent, be helpful and as generous as possible around costs for your child to live the best life they can in both homes.
  • Support and encouragement in all aspects of their lives, including their education, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing – Be the best model you can of how to get through a tough situation as they will be watching and learning from you on how to deal with difficult issues.
  • Form and express their own views on any matter affecting them – If they are sad about things let them be sad before trying to get them to see the better things which may arise from the situation. If they seem happy with things, then that’s fine too. Don’t project emotions which may be strong for you onto them.
  • Be kept informed about matters in an age appropriate manner – Honesty isn’t always best if it is going to change how a child feels about a parent. Leave them free to learn about more intimate facts or reasons for the divorce for when they are much older and capable of dealing with these bigger issues.
  • Privacy and respect for their feelings, including the way they feel about each of their parents.
  • Protection from information and material, including that found online, which may be harmful to them – This means trying to co-parent, so you can both share certain ground rules which will protect your child.
  • Protection from harm, and from adults who might do them harm – Think of harm as a child protection issue. If the other parent is doing something you really don’t agree with, and you are worried for your child’s safety, then call social services or the relevant professionals for support. However, if it is not a child protection issue you can have a conversation about it with the other parent, but it may just be a difference in parenting style that you may need to accept.

Divorcing with children is difficult, you are always going to be connected to that person. The easier the relationship you can have with them the better it is for your children. So when you are having to be the bigger person-again, or let things go sometimes, remember you are not doing it for your ex’s benefit, but for your child.

Leia works for Family Transitions, which provides practical, psychological and emotional support to families who are experiencing change.

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