You’d have to have to be in serious denial to imagine that when a couple split up, it doesn’t have a very real effect on their children. During and following a split, children pick up every little sign of tension and sometimes can’t cope with such a momentous change in their lives and everyday circumstances.
Without the right support, from parents, extended family and occasionally trained professionals, a breakup can cause a child to experience real emotional damage.
Advice for newly separated parents
There are, of course, no quick fixes when it comes to helping a child cope with their parents splitting up. It’s a slow process, and time will be your family’s best friend. However, you might find the following practical tips and advice useful to bear in mind:
Always keep the needs of the child uppermost in your mind.
Every action taken and word spoken following a split should be carried out with the best interests of the child in mind. As parents, the happiness of your child is your biggest responsibility – everything else is at the bottom of your priorities list.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is nearly always best for the child to maintain contact with both parents. So, if you’re considering moving a long way away with a new partner, or you’re blocking contact between your ex and your child, you should reconsider for the sake of your child’s emotional well-being.
Establish a new routine quickly.
Having a routine is important for a child’s sense of stability and security, which is likely to have been shaken by the split. Having a regular routine in place, particularly when it comes to which days he or she will see the parent they don’t live with, will help to normalise life again.
Be sensitive about new partners.
Moving a new partner in soon after a split can cause the child to resent the ‘intruder’ in their home, effectively taking their absent parents place. The best approach is to go slowly, introducing the child to your new partner gradually, and involving them in the decision about the partner joining the family.
Keep talking about what’s happening.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about what’s happening, explaining the situation as best you can and exploring how they feel about it. This is the healthy way to get those feelings out, on both sides, and to make sense of the huge change to your child’s life.
It can be hard to maintain your composure in the wake of a split, but it is important for your child that you avoid putting your ex-partner down, playing childish games and bickering. It will also make it easy for both of you as single parents if you are able to remain cordial.
Seek professional help.
You should never be afraid to reach out for help and support. There is a world of resources, advice and places for single parents to turn to for help, so make use of them if you need to.