Helping Children Cope with Divorce and Separation

Putting Children First

When relationships split up it is often the children who suffer the most. Senior family court judge, Sir Nicholas Wall recently described how adults sometimes use their children as both ‘the battlefield and the ammunition’ in the divorce courts. You are probably aware of the negative impact that separation or divorce can have on your children but you may be unsure of how to help them deal with the changes that it will bring.

As an accredited parenting teacher and coach, I work with parents who are going through separation and divorce to help them to put their children’s feelings and needs at the very centre of the process.

After many years experience working with the national parenting charity Family Lives, I now offer parenting courses and coaching to individuals and couples. Sessions are conducted by telephone or Skype, so they are accessible to clients living both in the UK and abroad, and can be arranged at times to suit clients, including weekends and evenings. I am based in North London and can offer face-to-face sessions by arrangement.

 

The parenting course is based on a programme devised by Family Lives and includes:

 

o Supporting children through separation and divorce

o Giving them the information they need

o Reassuring children that they are not to blame for what has happened

o Dealing with anger

o Understanding children’s and parents’ needs and learning how to express them

 

The course is tailored to suit the needs of the individual client, which may include their own experiences as a child and specific issues, such as keeping in touch as a non-resident parent and making the most of contact sessions.

 

Parents who have worked with me have said:

‘After separating from my wife, I have had to battle in the family courts to get reasonable access to my children – an incredibly emotional and distressing time for all concerned, especially my kids. In Dorothy, I found someone who truly understands how to empathise and work with people in situations such as the one I was facing. Our sessions have been both enjoyable and educational. She tailored the course specifically to meet my situation and has also been incredibly supportive. I would recommend her to anyone without question.’
Adam, father of two.

 

‘My sessions with Dorothy helped me tremendously whilst I was going through a traumatic divorce and had very limited access to my children. She enabled me to see things from the children’s perspective and gave me hope where previously there had been none. The books she recommended were also a great support between sessions. The open letter she wrote to the court also helped everyone involved to see that I had been making every effort to improve my parenting skills. I cannot speak highly enough of her and am looking forward to working with her for my whole family’s benefit in the future.’

Jeremy, father of four

 

A parenting course of five 50-minute sessions costs £300. A letter for court costs an additional £50.

Dos and Don’ts for Divorcing Parents

Helping Children Cope with Separation and Divorce

When adult relationships break down it is the children who suffer most. They often feel that what has happened is their fault in some way. They may feel powerless. Here are some suggestions to help them.

Do….
Let children know the divorce or separation is not their fault
Allow them to express their feelings and acknowledge and accept those feelings
Give them the information they need about practical arrangements
Let them know it’s okay for them to love their mother and father equally, just as they did before the separation
Support their relationship with the other parent
Let them know they have two homes and are equally welcome in both – don’t make them choose
Give them discipline and boundaries as well as love
Reassure them you still love them and always will.
If you do not have contact then keep in touch by phone or skype, send them letters, emails, texts, facebook, myspace, twitter – this gets much easier as children get older and have independent access to technology.

Don’t…
Criticise the other parent
Use your children as messengers and spies
Use them to retaliate against the other parent
Make them responsible for adult decisions
Make them your best friend or confidante
Undermine the other parent’s routine (bedtime, sweets, homework)
Place blame about why the divorce happened
Try to win their love by ‘outbuying’ the other parent
Discuss the details of the divorce or separation
Stop contact or child support to punish the other parent

Whatever has happened between you and the other parent, your child’s welfare must come first.