Part 1, Part 2
The process of separation and divorce is painful for adults, but at least they have some control. The process hurts children too - and they don't have any control. They depend on the decisions and actions adults take. They are at the mercy of their carers' moods. Thus it's particularly important to understand how the breakup of your relationship affects them, and what the consequences are.
If you're facing a divorce, I can so understand if you’re feeling ‘all over the place’ right now. The whole process can feel like a never-ending roller-coaster ride. You just want to grab hold of anything that can help you feel more safe and secure.
Despite all that, you’re also having to consider the needs and wants of your children. They doubtless feel ‘out of sorts’ too because of the breakup. Just as you’re at your lowest ebb, your children are most in need of your attention. They need you to be patient, understanding and willing to attend to their distress. It may not always be easy to spot that they're suffering, so it would be easy to think that all is well.
During this turbulent time, it’s all too easy for you to consider your children's needs last. The impact of a divorce can be one of the most life-changing and distressing things that will happen to them. The effects of your separation and divorce can affect them long after you and your ex have moved on. It makes no difference how old your children are. Even adult children often feel devastated by their parent's divorce, but at least they can help themselves.
Yet, as adults you have the power to minimise your children’s distress now and in the longer term. You can prevent or reduce any negative consequences.
I want to help you understand what you can do to help your children get through the process in the best possible way.
Let’s start with a look at the ‘landscape’...
You're facing so many choices that involve your children too. So, it's important to keep their best interests in the forefront of your mind. This will also help you to explain your choices to them whenever the occasion arises. Your confidence will reassure them and is likely to make the process more manageable for them. You too are likely to feel better if you see your children cope and adjust. That, in turn, will also be of benefit to your children.
When you’re feeling okay, you’ll have more time, energy and patience for your children. Thus it’s paramount that you take care of yourself too. Let’s face it - a happier, more patient mum or dad is likely to make for more contented children. They'll feel better and are likely to recover and flourish - despite the circumstances.
I know, from personal as well as professional experience, that can be tough. So I understand you may want to talk to an expert - someone not connected with the circumstances. It’s best to find someone local to you. If you have no access to services where you are, you can always chat with one of the online experts via my website. Just click here. (I want to be upfront with you: it’s a paid service.)
If you're unsure about breaking up, then please consider taking my relationship test. It can help you to make sure you're making the right decision. Maybe you do need to separate, but perhaps there is a chance you can rebuild your relationship. You'll need to know what the real problem is though, not what you think it is. The test is a great aid to help you figure it out.
Second and third marriages have a 67 - 80% chance of ending in divorce. So, it really can be worth fighting for what you have now. Remember: the grass is not greener on the other side of the hill, but where you water it!
If your partner is less inclined to put in the effort and you feel like you're doing all the work, have a look at How to Save Your Marriage by Lee Baucom, PhD. Baucom developed a blueprint for repairing relationships. He made sure it could be effective even if one of the partners appears to have no interest in trying any longer.
Unfortunately it's a fact of life that parental break-ups are common. Most children will be aware of others who are part of a multi-layered or 'blended' family. They may have had several step-fathers or mothers. They could have several step-sisters, step-brothers, half-sisters and half-brothers.
Considering your children's needs can be challenging. It's even more difficult with such a complex family situation. Aim to make it as manageable as possible by having a considered parenting plan.
Children can react in lots of different ways to the news that their parents are separating. Their behaviour and mood can also change at any time during the whole process.
I'm aiming to give you an overview of how your children might be feeling. I hope that the following information gives you the know-how to support them at this painful time.
Divorce affects each child and each age group in a different way, but there are some common factors:
For children of all ages, the loss of consistency and constant change that divorce brings can be unsettling. But, the effect on smaller children is more severe, as they are less able to soothe themselves. Self-soothing is a life-skill that - under the right circumstances - develops with age.
It's particularly important that the arrangements you make for your children’s care are 'set in stone'. Arrangements which are or become inconsistent, 'punishing' and irregular have a detrimental effect. They lead to the kind of circumstances that are likely to increase the risk of your children suffering long-term.
I understand how difficult it can be to deal with it all. And you may feel that you're on your own with no-one ‘safe’ to talk to. Don't worry - I've got your back. You can talk to a relationship expert - in confidence. You can get some support and guidance, right from my site. It's easy to set up. Click here to learn more.
Join me in part 2 for my advice on making this difficult conversation as manageable as possible for your children and you.
Part 1, Part 2