Separation and your Child or Teen

There is a startling rise in couples separating and issues around lone parenting. However, evidence shows that children fare better in a happy one parent family than a two parent family where there is conflict. Therefore, how do we negotiate the minefield of to help children cope with separation and ensure they are not adversely affected? Couple conflict blocks a child’s/teens self-worth and their feelings of security are eroded over time. Problems in children are most likely to arise in broken relationships where conflict continues.

Parenting Positively if Separated

Teen Between (counselling service for teens of separated parents) tell Luke’s story who lives with his mum and stays also at his dad’s house.  “It’s tough having to keep track of all my stuff. I forget things and get into trouble in school, with football kit or homework in the wrong house. To add to this, mum and dad don’t talk so I have to pass messages between the two. It was doing my head in.” Teen Between helped him manage the situation and not get caught up in between the two parents.

Introducing New Partners to Your Child

The speed at which the separated partners move on into new relationships can be difficult for a child to manage. While they are struggling with a new separation, they often are thrown into sharing dad with a new girlfriend; leaving them angry and upset. For the child, everything may have changed suddenly and they may find they have no one to turn to. Feelings can be bottled up rather than being dealt with at the time. A parent may lean on their child emotionally or be emotionally unavailable at a time when their child needs their parent the most.

How to Help Your Child cope with separation/divorce

Separated parents need develop a Parenting plan covering sharing responsibilities, how decisions will be made and how difficulties will be dealt with. Easier said than done of course but do it for the child’s wellbeing. If an ex-partner feels hurt, they may do all they can to ensure you feel as they do? Hurt people hurt other people. Set a boundary around yourself and no matter what you encounter, do not take it personally.

You cannot change anyone, but you can change how you respond. This may improve their response to you over time.

Manage your emotions with your ex

When an ex-partner has strong feelings they may need to feel heard without interruption. Following that; a response from you of ‘I hear what you are saying’ makes them feel validated. In addition, they will be more open to listening to you afterwards. Acknowledging their feelings is crucial to conflict resolution. This is not the time to bring up old grievances, and deal with the immediate issue only.  When I speak in an ‘I’ message I find the other person does not feel under attack and will respond more positively. Therefore, a harsh comment of ‘You are always late’ can be communicated better with: ‘I need to know if you will be late and I’d appreciate a text’.

Useful websites:

Don’t find fault, find a remedy                           (Henry Ford)

How to improve communication with your ex-partner

    • Select an appropriate time (not with children present)
    • Seek first to understand them, only then to be understood
    • Listen without interruption
    • Acknowledge their feeling ‘sounds as if you feel’..’
    • A person who feels heard & understood will be open to listen to you
    • Communicate respectfully using an ‘I’ message (‘I need)
    • Request they listen to you without interruption
    • Do not bring up old grievances
    • Deal with the immediate conflict issues
    • Do not get into conflict
    • If the parents are angry with each other, do not let the child suffer

Separation or divorce on children