Conflict, separation, divorce? What will your children say about this time in their lives?

Separation or divorce is rarely an easy process to go through. It often includes anger, sadness, loss and change. And it is not just the two adults that experience this, the children also go through a lot of uncertainty and turmoil.

Many people describe the separation process as feeling like a bereavement. It can be an exhausting roller coaster of emotions, even if the decision has been agreed by both partners. The many changes that have to be worked through, divorce, finances, legal aspects, time with children and a place to live will form part of these decisions. If separating parents can’t agree, then anger and hurt can lead to heightened conflict, which parents can find exhausting. 

Children may at times find themselves being negatively impacted. How parents manage their separation and selves will have outcomes for children in their childhoods, their schoolwork and their adult relationships.

During a parents’ separation, children feel anxious and need more support and understanding from their parents, but usually, parents feel exhausted and drained themselves.

Children can feel the separation is their fault. They can be restricted from spending time with one parent while the other feels angry and hurt. They can lose their extended family due to ongoing conflict. They find themselves being asked to ‘spy’ for the other parent regarding new relationships. Some children will step into an adult role, mediating between parents, being expected to judge or choose and many will witness unpleasant exchanges between two people they love. 

Separating parents, individually or together can benefit from counselling when they find they are struggling to move through the separation process. If one or both are stuck at a stage of loss, perhaps denial, anger, blame or depression, then consider counselling to support you through this process.

Ask yourself “What do I want my children to say about this time in their lives?" From your answer you can start to plan what steps you need to take to help create that future for them.

It can sometimes be a small step, like deciding to be civil and say “hello” at hand over of children time.  The effect on children with even this small step forward can be very beneficial. Perhaps, if things have become very difficult, it is good to remember you love your children more than you dislike your ex, and having that thought as your priority can lead to the better choice of behaviour.

As your children see you getting on with life, they can then get on with their own lives.

Remember, nothing stays the same, in time things settle down into a new normal life for you and your children.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Tamworth, Staffordshire, B77
Written by Sue Lovell, Counselling BACP Registered, ADHD-CCSP, Relate Accredited
Tamworth, Staffordshire, B77

Sue is a counsellor and trainer working in private practice in the Midlands. With over 20 years experience with Relate, she has helped people improve their relationships, individually or in couples work, as well as offering counselling when people separate or divorce.

Her training work helps people reduce conflict who are in the court process.

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