Separation can be a very difficult time for everyone involved and sometimes amidst all the conflict, parents can forget the impact on the ones they are trying to protect – their children.
It can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all and start focusing from a mathematical point of view such as “I want 50 per cent of the time”. However from a child’s point of view, they often don’t notice that they spent a few days less with one parent than they did with the other, but rather notice the tension between the two people that they love the most.
What can you do to make it easier for the children?
1. Introduce change gradually
At separation, children often have to cope with significant and sudden change such as spending separate time with their parents – often in two different homes. Try keeping day-to-day life as routine as possible such as ensuring they continue to attend their regular school and extra-curricular activities and give them space to do the fun things they would with their friends and extended family. Further change such as a new partner or moving to another area can be better accepted by children when introduced in a more gradual fashion and after some time to adjust.
2. Plan with the other parent
It’s often very distressing for children to find themselves in the middle of arguments. It’s always a good idea to talk to the other parent as much as you can in terms of how to make this transition as easy as possible for the kids. Working out a plan together and getting on the same page before then communicating with the children sends a clear message that there is nothing to worry about.
3. Communicate openly and reinforce
Although parents often do not intend it to be the case, sometime in the heat of it all, arguments unfold right in front of the children. Particularly with younger children, it is easy for them to see this conflict as a result of their actions and therefore feel responsible. Reinforcing to children that it is not their fault can make all the difference in how they mentally cope with the separation. Promoting the children’s relationship with the other parent can help them feel that they don’t have to pick sides and this makes the transition easier for everyone.