By Caroline Keeley
Coping with divorce or separation in isolation is hard enough. Adding parental responsibility to the equation, only serves to exacerbate the stress, anxiety and uncertainty even further. Not only are you confronted by the turbulence of your own emotions, ranging from extremes of guilt, anger and sadness, but your children might also be enduring those exact same emotions as you. Like you, children need support. Any separation or dispute can have far reaching and profound effects on children, regardless of how old or young they are.
One of the most important skills as a family lawyer is empathy. There is an absolute necessity to truly understand how our clients are feeling, what they are going through and recognise how challenging it is for them, to be enduring such indecision, uncertainty and emotional vulnerability.
At TWM Solicitors, in addition to our exceptional client care, we also pride ourselves on being empathetic and providing our clients with helpful strategies to manage the impact of a separation or divorce, not only upon themselves, but also upon their children.
Here is a summary of what some of those strategies are, which can of course be adapted for any age:
Whilst it may sound obvious, you need to actually tell your children that you are separating. This cannot be at the convenience of one or both of you. It really warrants careful planning and the highest degree of sensitivity. Not only is timing important, but the location is too. On the way to school, or at breakfast or dinner, it is unlikely to promote the best approach. The news must also come from both of you, not just from one of you.
It is always advisable to try and determine matters by agreement, even if this is with the assistance and advice of a lawyer.
It is not uncommon that children feel somehow responsible for the breakdown of a marriage or relationship. So take steps to ensure that they are not under the impression that it is their responsibility. Encourage your children, reassure them and promote comfort and support.
As hard as it may be, try not to be uncivilised in front of the children, or allocate blame on the other parent or encourage children to take sides. If necessary, timetable those heated discussions or contentious debates away from the children.
Ultimately, the journey needs to be about flexibility. There is no room for rigidity. Children thrive in routines and secure boundaries, so maintaining consistency is key. However, you will also need to recognise that you will need to embrace change, to enable your new family set up to evolve - which will entail separate homes, separate holidays, separate friends etc.
It is advisable to never encourage or promote any damage to the child or children’s relationship with the other parent. Parental alienation is extremely damaging and can have all-embracing effects on all family members.
If contact arrangements become difficult, then consider putting together a parenting plan, setting out your agreed contact arrangements. If this breaks down, then get in touch with us for further advice.
And finally, irrespective of your reasons for not being together, you will need to learn how to continue co-parenting successfully, albeit separately. Ultimately, this will benefit your children most in the long-term.
If there are any safeguarding or welfare concerns, you are advised to obtain advice immediately. If you need any discrete advice or legal assistance in relation to separation, divorce or children matters, please do not hesitate to make an appointment and come in to see us.
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