Joanna Diamantopoulos has more than a decade’s experience as a family lawyer. Today, she shares some wisdom for parents who are in the throes of a relationship breakdown, with advice for making this event a smooth transition for children.
Separation and divorce is unquestionably one of the more stressful life events you can experience. It creates an emotional upheaval, not only for you but also for your children (irrespective of how old they are). When faced with this situation it is paramount to remember that children are innocent bystanders in the tug and war of separation. Too often I’ve seen parents involve the children, some of them very young, into what is essentially adult conflict. Children, of course, lack the tools to manage the complicated issues and the range of emotions surrounding separation (indeed many adults find this challenging also).
While separation and divorce is always a challenging time for children, there are a few things that you, as a parent, can do to make this difficult transition easier.
1. Do not tell your children how bad their mother or father are, or point out the things they do wrong or the mean words that have been exchanged. This isn’t your children’s fight. Children have an unconditional love for both parents and their love should not be clouded by your war;
2. When transitioning from one household to two, allow your former spouse to take some household furniture and effects and even some of the children’s favourite things. This will assist a child to connect their old life and feel at home irrespective of whose house they happen to be staying at.
3. Keep the lines of communication open. There are ways to communicate without necessarily having to speak face to face. Email and text message can be easily exchanged in order to avoid the tensions associated with talking to each other when emotions are high. It is advisable to keep any correspondence business-like in tenor. Use respectful and polite language.
4. Remember children have commitments also. Sport, dancing lessons, karate or even party invitations. Don’t let the new living arrangements interfere with the children attending these activities. It is understandable that a non-residential parent wants to spend as much time with their children as possible, but failure to take them to their activities, can be perceived by them as a punishment. Enjoy the activities with your children, stay, watch and interact with the rest of the parents. No doubt your children will be happy just to have you there.
5. Do not use your children to “spy” on the other parent. Of course you can ask how their weekend was, but don’t push for information like it is the Spanish inquisition as you try and get dirt on your former spouse.
These common sense tips will assist you and your children through the trying time that is separation. They are not difficult, complex or hard, but sometimes are simply forgotten due to the barrage of extreme emotions encountered during separation and divorce.