Are you separating or getting a divorce?
It is common knowledge that separating or going through a divorce for most people is an extremely difficult time emotionally. It is a minefield of issues and sometimes it may seem that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The Counselling, Mediation & Relationship Centre, every week, assists families resolve what may at first seem to be. Each couple or family we see is unique and we take into account this uniqueness in tailoring a parenting plan that suits their specific needs.
Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, you’ll need to decide how much to tell your children.
Be age-aware. In general, younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation, while older kids may need more information.
A good first step is to develop a joint explanation and to tell it to your children together as a family at the same time.
Don’t blame -as when the divorce is blamed on one of the parents, the children, in effect, are being persuaded to relinquish love for that parent, or, to feel confused and guilty about loving their “bad” parent and displeasing their “good” parent. If, however, both parents mutually take responsibility for the break-up, then their children are set free from being caught in the middle of a loyalty conflict
After telling the children, you also need to then explain in as much detail as possible, how their daily routines will work and the schedule for how they will be sharing time between their parents. If you aren’t sure of the final schedule for time-sharing of the children after the separation, reassure the children that you two will work out these details and will let them know just as soon as they are set in place.
Tell your children about the separation and divorce in advance of one parent moving out, whenever possible. Inform the school a few days prior so that they can be aware to look out for any issues that may arise with the child.
The discussion should take place at a time that is distraction-free and at a place, such as home, that is familiar and comfortable. Weekends are best — if possible at the start of a weekend so you will be around for them to talk to or be close to during the immediate days after the talk.
Use words that are addressed to the specific developmental level of your child or to each of your children’s level of understanding. Talk to young children more slowly and with simple words and simple phrases. Talk to older children and adolescents in more adult ways.
Set aside enough time to answer any question that the children may have about what is going to happen after the separation. Do not tell them right before you have a business meeting, a hair appointment or a soccer practice. – Allow several hours of unplanned time after this discussion.
Reinforce that this is an adult decision and
has nothing to do with anything the children did or said.
No-one is blaming anyone else — the children are free to continue loving each parent fully without fear of betraying other parent or feeling disloyal (this may be the toughest challenge for many parents, but it is crucial if you want to protect the children from pain and maladjustment).
Tell them a lot of different feelings are normal — we all will feel sad, angry, worried, and maybe curious about the future — all feelings are normal
Be ready for any reactions – children sometimes have tantrums, cry, or say, “When is dinner?” and pretend they didn’t hear you. Some kids ask a lot of questions, and some ask nothing.
Try not to pester the children about their feelings, but ask them a question or two every few days. For example: How was school today? What did you do when you felt sad? Did you talk to anyone?
Some children go through divorce relatively unscathed while others have a very difficult time. It is completely normal for children to feel a range of emotions, but time, love, and reassurance should help them to heal. If your child remains overwhelmed, consider Griffith Counselling at The Counselling, Mediation & Relationship Centre
Your case is Unique
Don’t rely on advice from family, friends and neighbours. While their intentions may be good, every case is different and we recommend that you seek advice from a family lawyer.
For your financial questions, it will be helpful to consult an accountant or trusted financial advisor to get their input and advice so as to assist you when negotiating your financial settlement.
It’s important to be careful about how you are photographed, the posts you make or posts made about you on social media. These could be used later to establish facts about your lifestyle such as excessive drinking, partying or other behaviour which could impact on your ability to provide a safe environment for your children.
Of importance is the fact that when you are involved in litigated divorce proceedings, you should never discuss the matter or denigrate the other party on social media as this can be seen as a breach of the Family Law Act and seriously compromise your case.
Keep conflict from your children
Although it can be hard keep your anger and conflict separate from your children at all times, children do not thrive in an environment with conflict and you need to protect them from this wherever possible.
It is also important to not disparage your ex- partner in front of your children. This includes talking about them to other adults when your children are in earshot. This can cause undue stress for your children and create conflicting loyalty between you and the other parent. It may also seriously impede any chance of creating a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex.
Co-parenting or shared parenting is the experience of raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs. While your marriage may be over, you are tied to your ex-partner for the foreseeable future through your children. Often a difficult process as you may still be feeling anger, pain, resentment, or some grief, co-parenting is greatly influenced by the reciprocal interactions of each parent. Putting these feelings aside while absolutely difficult to do in some cases, will pay off in terms of building a good foundation for your co-parenting relationship as well as being in the best interests of your children.
Some of the most important reasons to co-parent are:
Children who see their parents respecting and valuing each other have higher self-esteem;
When children watch their parents communicate and co-operate respectfully with each other, this teaches them good social skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.
The children have much better relationships with both parents as there is no feeling of conflicting loyalty and they are not feeling torn.
Parents who co-parent tend to have fewer issues developing with less tension and reduced conflict and therefore they have more time to focus on their children.
Parents participate more in their children’s lives – for example both parents are happy to go watch sport or attend mutual events and thus both parents and children experience less loss. The family remains a place of safety and comfort which allows the children to express themselves honestly and openly with more confidence.
Co-parenting tends to also makes life easier for everyone else in the children’s’ life such
as extended family, friends, teachers etc.
Children learn to resolve disagreements in a courteous and effective manner, a skill that
will serve them well as adults.
Donna Piromalli has been in private practice for approx. 6 years, helping individuals, couples and families.
She has extensive experience in couple and family therapy and is considered a specialist in these areas.
In her practice, she has helped people deal with complex trauma, affairs, complex mental health issues, adolescent behavioural problems behavioural issues in young children which are impacting parents and families, relationship issues and post-separation work.