Helping children cope with separation and divorce


The 8 most important things children want their separated parents to know

Whenever I ask parents going through separation or divorce what their number one priority is, they usually say they want their children to be ok, to feel secure and to feel loved.  Sadly, in all the upheaval and upset of separating it’s very easy for parents to take their eyes off the ball and miss what their children need most from them. Having a good bond with your parents and reassurance that this won’t change is obviously important. What’s less obvious is that the quality of the relationship you have with your ex after separation can make a huge difference to how children adapt. If you think it doesn’t matter that you don’t get on with your ex and that your child doesn’t notice the atmosphere between you, you’d be wrong.

Having spoken to lots of children whose parents are living apart, I’d say that there are 8 key messages that children have to give to their parents. The messages are surprisingly simple and apply as much to 2 year olds as they do to 16 year olds.

  1. Please don’t argue in front of us
  2. We don’t like it when you criticise or bad mouth each other.
  3. It makes us feel good when you get on.
  4. We don’t have to worry so much if you talk together about things that affect us.
  5. We need both of you and we like doing everyday things with each of you as well as the things that make us feel special.
  6. Ask us what we want and listen to what we have to say.
  7. We know you want to spend time with us but remember that we have a social life too and sometimes we want to spend time with our friends as well.
  8. Separation affects us children differently, mostly we feel either sad or angry about not living together anymore but we can cope and get on with our lives if you can too.

One of the things that makes mediation such a good way for families to decide on future contact plans is that children can have their say too. If the parents agree, a specially trained mediator will listen to a child in their own private meeting. It’s made clear to everyone that children aren’t being asked to make decision because that’s the parents’ responsibility. Children do, however, want their views taken into consideration.

Sometimes their suggestions are unexpected. One little 9 – year old had thought long and hard about what she wanted to say. She hadn’t had the heart to tell her dad that when he did her hair it turned out lopsided and straggly. Her request was for mum to give dad a lesson in doing plaits!

Contact me about mediation-