Working through a divorce can be a challenging time, but it’s important to remember that it’s not only you that can be affected by the changes that are happening. Divorce impacts the entire family unit and putting your children’s needs first can be key to facilitating a smooth transition and creating a happy, healthy ‘new normal’ for the whole family.
How Do Children Feel About Divorce?
One of the most frustrating things that parents must accept is that there’s no right or wrong way for children to think about divorce. Children will have different views and different feelings about the separation, largely influenced by their age, their understanding of divorce, and their awareness of the family situation. Younger children especially may feel confused or worried, while teenagers may feel angry or ashamed.
It’s impossible to predict or plan for how each child will react to the news of divorce, and so as a parent the best thing that you can do is simply to support them as they process the changes that are taking place. At National Legal Service, we’re committed to helping you create as smooth a transition as possible, which is why we’re sharing with you 4 simple methods that can help your children to process and understand divorce:
1. Accept Divorce
Regardless of whether this is something you wanted or not, the reality of divorce can be difficult to fully accept. This can result in a long, drawn out process which may elongate the pain and confusion that children can feel. One of the 3 key principles of the Children Act 1989 is the “no delay principle” and the sooner you are able to come to terms with your own feelings, the sooner your children will too. Children naturally look to their parents for clues on how they should behave, so taking the time to process your own feelings first can be instrumental in helping them to process theirs.
2. Talk About It
Involving your children in your divorce can be challenging. After all, you don’t want them to get hurt. However, keeping them isolated from the situation can make it harder for them to accept what’s going on. While it’s not recommended that parents go into all the ins and outs of the situation, it is important to be transparent in areas where it’s appropriate to do so. For example, if you and your former partner have already agreed on arrangements such as time to be spent with each parent, grandparent involvement, and living situations, then communicate these aspects clearly, and keep children updated. Consider asking the children their wishes and feelings on these issues (depending on their age and understanding).
3. Focus on Family
Although you and your former partner may no longer be a couple, try to focus on the fact that you will both always be parents to your children. Try to shift the meaning of the family unit from ‘a couple with children’ to ‘parents of children’ to show that this type of unit will continue to live on, no matter what. Also try to refrain from alienating the other parent or speaking about them in a way that could make children upset. It may be difficult but maintaining a united front – communicating the same message, even though you are apart – can go a long way towards proving peace of mind to children.
4. Keep it Informal
It’s no secret that divorce can be hard. However, in many cases, the more informal the divorce the easier it is on children. The best-case scenario is that former couples are able to agree on arrangements privately. But in more complex situations where this isn’t possible, we always recommend seeking advice from our family law team or asking us to arrange for family mediation which can help you to resolve conflict out of court. Where children are involved, we believe that court should always be considered only as a last resort, which is why we offer an extensive range of effective family law services. The “no order principle” is one of the other 3 key principles of the Children Act 1989.
At National Legal Service, we know that your children are your top priority, no matter what. And your children’s welfare is the court’s primary concern as well (the 1st of the key principles of the Children act 1989 that we have referenced in this blog). We also know that, during these challenging and uncertain times, you may not have all the answers. That’s why we’re here. Our dedicated family law team is highly experienced in all aspects of divorce and child care arrangements, even in cases that may be more complex, unusual, difficult, or sensitive. We are deeply committed to supporting you to support your children through times of change, giving you what you need to create a happy and healthy future for the people that really matter most.
Get in touch early so that you know your options before you start discussions as a family as being well informed can really help your conversations with each other.