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Help your child cope with divorce and separation

image of mother and daughter looking happy
Parents breaking up is hard for the whole family. Try these tips to support your child through this difficult time of readjustment.

As a parent, facing the prospect of divorce or separation from a partner can be a daunting experience, fraught with anxieties about how your child may be affected. While these concerns are perfectly natural, it is important to remember that it’s within your power to help minimise the negative effects for your family.

Linda Jones author of Divorce and Separation: The Essential Guide, says, “It is easy to start believing it will cause immeasurable damage to your children.” However, she adds, “What matters most is how this undoubtedly traumatic turn of events is handled, how the parents conduct themselves in front of their children, how they relate to each other, what they say about them, and how they work together to make things work.”

Unfortunately a parental split can be a very unsettling time for children involved, and they may experience feelings of anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, anger, and sadness. It is important that you as parents work together in a partnership to help them through this difficult time. Follow these key pieces of advice:

Help your child to understand your separation or divorce through talking openly with them. Encourage them to ask questions, and answer them appropriately.

Ensure that your child shares their worries and feelings with both of you. That they don’t feel to blame for your split is important in helping them feel secure and comfortable about what is happening.

Keep routines
Making sure your child’s feelings of stability and security stay intact throughout the change in your relationship is important. You can help this by ensuring that their daily routine does not change too much, too quickly.

Spend time together
Make sure you spend plenty of quality time with your child, just enjoying yourselves and relaxing

Be alert
Watch out for any warning signs or changes in your child’s behaviour. It could be a sign they are more affected by the split than they are letting on.

Speak to school
Remember to communicate with your child’s school so that they can help support your child. If you are anxious about your child’s behaviour, do try approaching a counsellor or therapist who can offer expert guidance

Protect your child
Don’t expose them to any arguments or conflict. Make sure these do not happen in the house – even if you think your child is asleep. Although it is good to communicate certain things with your child, do not burden them with too much information or emotionally ‘lean’ on them. Be sensitive to their age.

Set ground rules together
As individual parents you do not want your child to identify one of you as the ‘hero’ who lets them stay up late and eat what they like and the other as the ‘villain’ who tells them what time bedtime is and who insists they eat their greens. Come up with a practical set of rules together.

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