As a former primary school teacher of nearly 20 years, I have seen first-hand the effects of divorce and separation on children and the good news is, it’s not all bad news. Children will inevitably experience some feelings of loss, grief and anger when their parents separate, but separation doesn’t have to have long-term negative consequences for children.
Children often say they want their parents to stay together and films such as Disney’s ‘The Parent Trap’ tap into this reconciliation fantasy. Although many separated parents will cringe at its happy-ever-after Mum and Dad get back together ending, it does hide a deeper truth that, even without the fairy tale ending, children want, and need, their parents to communicate and be civil to one another.
Listening to children’s voices makes it very plain that it’s the parental conflict around the time of a divorce or separation that leaves them most confused and upset. In research done by Kent Mediation Services, children said they hated hearing parents blaming or criticising each other, they needed to feel free to love both Mum and Dad, and that they didn’t want to be forced to choose one parent over another.
But, at a time when emotions are running high, it can be really hard for parents to keep the needs of their children at the centre of their discussions. Emotions often spill over into anger and recriminations and children can end up feeling caught in the middle.
This is when mediation can help. In mediation parents come together with a trained mediator in a safe and neutral space. They can discuss issues around child arrangements, such as where the children will live, contact with the non-resident parent and financial support for the children. Each parent will be able to voice their concerns and fears about the future. The mediator won’t take sides and will help parents reach agreements that are acceptable to both and meet the needs of the children.
Parents can also sign up to a Separated Parents Information Programme which can give parents a blueprint of how to communicate and help them build a foundation for co-parenting in the future.
It’s a win-win solution for parents and children.
Author: Rebecca Sewell