How will you and your partner ensure the well-being of your children when you are newly separated?
It is usual for one person to be further along the process of grief and acceptance than the other at the time of separation. Even if one person initiates the separation, they will feel loss and grief. This is particularly the case when you have children together.
Similarly, children feel enormous loss and are anxious about what their lives will be like in their “new normal”. It might be difficult for both parents to successfully talk to children together, but it is important that you show a united front to help your children through this difficult period of adjustment.
It has been proven that children are harmed by exposure to family violence and parental conflict. This trauma impacts on their cognitive development. Not just exposure to physical and verbal abuse, but the more insidious behaviours that parents too often display when they are in conflict. Children that are exposed to parental conflict and family violence are less likely to be able to hold down a job when they grow up and are more prone to developing mental health issues including anxiety, depression and mood and personality disorders.
Some advice on how to manage this process:
- Be mindful of little ears – You might not realise that your children are around when you are having conversations with other adults. Be mindful of ensuring your children do not overhear you talking about the other parent in a derogatory way.
- Understand that your children love you both – Children often don’t understand the situation and love both their parents. Don’t take it personally that they want to spend time with the other parent and love you both. Let your children love the other parent without concern that will diminish their love for you.
- Seek support – If your self-esteem needs support seek advice and don’t ask your children to pick you over the other parent. That is not fair on them and often they will not understand why you are doing this.
- Children perceive time differently – Your child may say they want to spend time with you, but they may not understand that will be at the expense of time with the other parent. Developmental differences change a child’s capacity to understand time.
- Expect that it will feel odd – Initially, the time that your children spend with the other parent without you will feel confronting and odd. It is an adjustment for you all and your children will be experiencing similar oddities. Accept this and talk to the other parent and your children about it to help them feel comfortable with the change.