‘The world has shattered into a thousand pieces and everything that I trusted about life has fallen apart. Not only that, but the person who is making life this bad is the person who always made my life better. I don’t know which way to turn.’
[Jill, mother to three boys, two weeks after her husband left home.]
Endings take time and if you are to avoid creating a situation where your children fear that your relationship with them is ending too, you must give yourself enough time to deal with the change step by step. In this way, you will offer your children the security that they need.
The keys to helping children cope with divorce and separation are held by parents and those other important adults in children’s lives such as grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends of the family. All of these people have the power to positively or negatively influence the ways in which children are affected by divorce and separation.
Children can and do thrive in separated families and can easily adapt to living for some of the week in one home and the rest in another. Ensuring their warmth and safety in both homes is imperative, as is establishing continuity and consistency in your arrangements. Keep in mind that your children have the right to a relationship with all of the significant people in their lives after family separation and that it is your responsibility as parents to help them achieve this. Value and respect all of the people in your children’s families of origin and you will help them to build self respect and self worth that will last them for the rest of their lives.
Whatever the circumstances that lay behind your family separation, regardless of whether you feel as though you were wronged, irrespective of whether you and the other parent agreed that there should be a separation or not, your relationship with your child or children will change and will change for ever.
This may feel terrifying but the change need not be for the worse. It is possible to have an even stronger and more fulfilling parenting relationship with your children. But, in order to achieve this, you need to be able and willing to put the work in. You will need to understand what is happening to you and to your relationship with the other parent and what your children will be experiencing in order to make the changes successfully.
The most important reason for building a co-operative relationship is so that your children can continue to be close to both of you, those people who are most important to them in the whole world. Valuing your children means that you want the very best for them, what parent doesn’t want that? Respecting your children means valuing all that they are, that which they have inherited from each of you. Wanting to continue sharing your responsibility to care and provide for your children is key to building co-operation, having the willpower and commitment to keep going even when it is tough means that you will succeed.