Supporting Children During Separation and Divorce
The rates of separation and divorce in Ireland are rising, with the most recent Central Statistics Office figures showing that there are over 87,704 separated or divorced persons living in households with children.
The reasons for separation or divorce are extremely varied and can be quite complex. Some couples feel that separating would be the best decision in the long run for both themselves and their children.
The impact of separation and divorce on the family:
Separation and divorce has been evidenced as one of the most stressful life events a family can experience. Similar to bereavement and loss, many people going through a separation or divorce can find themselves dealing with a mixture of intense emotions including anger and low mood. As well as dealing with the personal impact of a separation or divorce, parents often worry about how their children will cope with the experience.
While many children will need some extra support to deal with the emotional impact of separation, research has shown that children often find ongoing arguments and conflict between parents more upsetting than a separation. Many children can understand that their lives as a whole will be calmer with less exposure to conflict post-separation and while they can feel a sense of loss, some children express relief that they no longer have to witness ongoing conflict.
Some tips / advice for parents / carers going through a divorce / separation
- It is important that parents avail of their own personal support through this often turbulent period. Some people find support through family and friends, whereas others find great support in accessing an independent third party such as a counsellor or support group.
- It is important that separating couples both agree on a clear, age-appropriate and child-friendly explanation of why they are separating.
- It is recommended that both parents sit down together to explain to their child or children as to why they are separating and to outline what the next steps will be.
- Some children will blame themselves for the separation and they will need ongoing and regular reassurances from both parents that they are not to blame and that they are still loved by both parents.
- Some parents find it helpful to explain that families come in all different forms and that even though some family members may live in a different house e.g. Granny or Grandad , they are still very much a part of the family.
- Children can benefit from reminders that they can approach either parent at any time to discuss any ongoing concerns or feelings about the separation. Parents may find it helpful to make it clear that they are there to listen and provide support if their child would like to talk about how they are feeling at any time. .
- In situations where children will be residing in-between two homes, or regularly visiting an alternate home,, it can be helpful for children to have their own calendar highlighting when these visits will take place. Ensuring that a child has their own set of clothes and toys in each house can help to ease transitions between homes.
- Where communication has broken down between parents, mediation can be helpful as a method for coming to an agreement about how co-parenting will work.
- It is important to regularly check in with how your child is feeling and if they may be in need of further professional support.
- Some parents separate, but due to financial, or other, reasons stay living within the same house. This can be confusing for children. It is essential that parents are really clear on the family’s new living situation.
Supports for Parents & Children
- The Rainbows programme supports children and young people affected by loss because of bereavement, separation or divorce. The service is available in local communities throughout Ireland. www.rainbowsireland.ie
- One Family Ireland provide a variety of supports to separating couples including a counselling helpline for parents and young people, as well as courses for separating couples. onefamily.ie
- Citizens Information Centres provide free impartial information, advice and advocacy from more than 214 locations around the country. Citizens Information also provides a nationwide phone service on 0761 074 000. This services is available from Monday to Friday. citizensinformation.ie
- The Family Mediation Service is aimed to help married and non-married couples who have decided to separate or divorce, or who have already separated. www.legalaidboard.ie
- Barnardos provide a range of resources to children and parents including information leaflets and parenting-when-separated groups for parents www.barnardos.ie
- There are 109 Family Resource Centres nationwide providing services and supports to local communities. Contact your local Family Resource Centre to find out about the supports which may be available for yourself or your child. www.tusla.ie
You can read how we presented information about divorce and separation to children and young people through our Childline.ie site here.