There is no doubt that going through a divorce will affect your children but there are ways you can reduce the impact and make the transition easier for them.
With one in three marriages in England and Wales ending in divorce, and nearly half of those couples having at least one child under the age of 16, there is a growing number of children who are affected by divorce.
The Office of National Statistics show that in 2013 (the latest available data), the split of couples who divorced with children was as follows:
- 40% of couples had no children
- 12% had children over the age of 16
- 48% of couples had at least one child under the age of 16
The data shows that nearly half of all divorcees had children under 16 and 60% of couples had children of any age, but what are the effects of divorce on your children and what can you do to limit the impact?
Children will all react differently when faced with divorce and there is some evidence to show that boys and girls are affected in different ways. They might be feeling:
- Angry at one or both parents
- Worried about being alone
- The loss of their non-resident parent
- Guilty and responsible for the divorce
- Pulled between both parents and conflicted
If you add in the need to move home and perhaps even change school because of divorce, this can be a very difficult time for a child.
If you can keep the relationship between you both as amicable as possible, this is a great starting place. Understandably, this is not always possible and it will always be difficult to take the negative emotions out of a divorce, but there are very real benefits for your children.
However, you do need to acknowledge what is happening with your children and discuss openly and honestly that it is a very difficult situation, and tell them that they are not to blame. Make it clear to them that you both still love them very much and that even though you won't live all together anymore that they still have two parents who will love them.
Reinforce the idea that talking will help and let them know that you will always try to answer any questions they may have. If you are the non-resident parent, always keep the contact arrangements that are in place so the children know they can rely on you to be around.
Try to keep life as normal as possible and keep doing the things you have always done, like visiting friends and family or walking the dog and going to the park. This is also time to start new traditions, hobbies and adventures for you and the children to plan and enjoy together.
Contact your children's school to advise them of the situation. They will be aware of any changes in behaviour and can keep you up to date with how they are coping at school. Their teacher can also be prepared if your child asks any questions or makes and comments about the situation at home.
These are some positive ways that can help your children get through your divorce with as less impact, but there are other things that you should be aware of yourself.
It can be easy to make negative comments and remarks about your ex-spouse to your children and this can really affect the relationship they have with them. It is your responsibility to ensure that you don't change how your child feels about their other parent – remember even though you aren't together anymore, you will still be parenting together.
Don't ask your child to choose who they want to live with or take sides as this can be destructive and don't try to withhold access of the children from your ex-spouse, effectively using them as a weapon. There will be long term consequences for the relationship with your children and your divorce is likely to be a lot more difficult.
Remember that whilst you are all going through a tough time now, things will improve given time and that the main focus for you all is to get through the divorce with the least pain and stress possible.