Q After 10 years of marriage we have decided to separate with a view to getting a divorce in two years time.
I know that lots of couples split up yet I hear very conflicting accounts of the effects upon the children.
I feel sad, disappointed and that I’ve somehow failed in my marriage, but I can see that we were never that compatible and we both fell in love with the notion of love. We have just matured and grown apart.
What do you think is the main problem we might need to work through to make all this less painful for our kids?
A I admire your heart-felt concern for the continuing welfare of your children.
I get the impression that this split is amicable and if so this will already be of benefit to your kids.
When you feel concerned about something to do with your separation, then try putting yourself in their place and seeing things from their (immature) perspective. This will help you to separate what is really your own concern or issue, and what might be one of theirs.
Also make plenty of ongoing time to discuss with them what’s going on and the feelings they have about it.
That sounds obvious, but our own tears and fears can get in the way. We can have the best of intentions but not actually follow through unless we commit to doing so beforehand.
Whatever their age they need to feel that you are being honest with them and that you will both continue to love them and make regular arrangements to spend time with them – perhaps even as a family.
Please don’t think of this life transition as a ‘failure’…if it was then it would certainly be a very common one.
See it instead as a new chapter which requires more mature care and consideration in how it’s written than the earlier ones in your relationship.
This is an opportunity for growth and change – and a reshaping of your relationship and family life.
It doesn’t have to be painful – as long as the children aren’t missing out too much on the good times they had before.
No doubt they will have peers who’ve been through their parents’ separation and divorce too, and this helps to normalise it for them.
I’ve worked with several people over the years who’d been adversely affected by their parent’s divorce.
Their difficult scenarios involved the parent’s hostility towards one another; feeling like they had to take sides; parent’s inconsistency and game-playing to score points; feeling like they (as children) were somehow to blame and their efforts to get their parents back together didn’t work; loss of familiar home, school and friends nearby (when they had to relocate); not seeing as much as one parent as they did before; and feeling less important than a parent’s ‘new’ relationship and family.
It’s incumbent upon you as parents to make this transition as smooth and painless as possible – with regular open communication. Don’t avoid issues, smooth things over, tell lies, or trivialise your child’s perspective.
If you feel that you want specific help for your children then please have a look at this website where you’ll find plenty of resources and help. http://www.sueatkinsparentingcoach.com/
As a footnote I’d also encourage you to help your children to build their inner resilience.
Here’s a link to an article I’ve written about this which goes into more detail. You can find it on this website (for Psychologies Magazine) when you sign up for free and put my name Maxine Harley in the search box. https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/
I hope this helps you all to create many new and happy chapters together!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com Where you will find FREE e-booklets and other free resources designed to help and inform you on your journey of self-knowledge and development