Good Divorce Week 2021 – A Child Focused Approach to Separation
As Part of this year’s Good Divorce Week, Hannah Sims, a Solicitor in our Family Team, discusses the importance of a child focused approach to separation.
Who is Resolution and What is Good Divorce Week?
Resolution is a community of family justice professionals, who work with families to resolve issues without confrontation and unnecessary conflict. Each member of the Family Team at Field Seymour Parkes is a member of Resolution, and we are committed to their principles. Each year, Resolution holds a campaign to raise awareness of how parties can separate and divorce as amicably as possible. This year, there is a particular focus on the importance of a child focused approach to separation.
A Child Focused Approach
Divorce is difficult and heavily emotive. This is often even more so when there are children involved. However, if parents can work together to agree the best outcome for their children, it is thought that the parents will also benefit from the result.
A separation can have both short- and long-term effects on children, so it is important to prioritise the child overall. A positive relationship between the parents is therefore encouraged to minimise stress and anxiety which the child/ren may be feeling.
Research has found that children cope better with their parents separating if there is no long-term parental conflict. Separating couples will benefit from organising their minds and feelings first so that they can also be prepared to support their children through the difficult time. Do not be afraid to seek help and rely on your support network or a professional.
Co-parenting and Communication
Parenting routines will undoubtably change on separation. Although this has the potential for arguments, patience is recommended. It is suggested that parents take time at the beginning of their separation to think about routines and structure, and we can assist you with this if necessary. When co-parenting, it is important to have confidence in the other parent (provided it is safe to do so) and give them their own space on their time with the children.
Try and establish a way to communicate with your ex-partner early on. Emotions may still be running high, and it is important to try and put aside your personal feelings for one another and focus on the children. Resolution has outlined some helpful tips as follows:
- Choose the right time to talk (avoiding distractions) and give the other parent notice so they are prepared
- Choose your words carefully
- Agree a time length
- Take a break if needed
- Think about what you need to communicate. Keep the conversation focused on the children and keep personal comments to yourself. If direct conversations are difficult, try using a handover book or email to update the other parent. There are also apps designed specifically for this purpose, such as ‘Our Family Wizard’, which have useful tools available to promote positive communication
Communicating with Children
It is important to listen to children to understand how they feel and to provide emotional support. However, it is important to distinguish speaking with the child about their feelings as opposed to involving them in the dispute. It is not appropriate to discuss the specific details of the separation with the children and any discussion around this topic needs to be dealt with carefully and sensitively as a means of supporting the child, and not for the purpose of creating distance with the other parent. It is important to remember that conversations with regards to the financial aspects of a divorce should never be had with children.
When having conversations with children about a separation, it is imperative that this is kept age appropriate. Resolution offers the following advice:
- Where possible, both parents should be involved in telling the child about the separation.
- Lots of reassurance should be given so that the children understand it is not their fault. There are a variety of resources available to help with this depending on the age of your child.
- Generally, it is best not to provide too much detail as this could lead to unnecessary anxiety for the child.
- Be mindful that, as parents, you are role models. So, keep personal conflicts away from the children.
- If your children want to discuss their feelings, listen as a priority and do not be distracted.
- Avoid blame and try not to influence the child with your own views.
There will inevitably be disputes on separation; it is a highly emotive and stressful time. For some, disputes can be resolved relatively quickly and without too much disagreement. For others, it is slightly more difficult, and they may feel that they need the assistance and support of a Solicitor. If this is the case, the Family team at Field Seymour Parkes would be happy to help.
If you would like to discuss separation, divorce or child arrangement matters with us, please contact the Family team.