There are around 3.9 million children growing up in the UK with separated parents. It is not uncommon. Children can cope really well with this arrangement if they are not caught up in ongoing arguments and unhealthy relationships between their parents. The separation can be a relief to everyone if things had been difficult before the separation.
Ideally children should be able spend time with both of their parents. When parents are able to continue to work together to support their child and make positive decisions that affect their lives, children can continue to thrive. If at all possible children value both parents being able to come to school events and share in their good and bad moments. A reliable routine of when children will see each parent help them stay connected and feel secure.
This is not always the case - some parents continue to struggle to be around each other and feel angry and upset about how the relationship ended. There may be financial and practical issues that make it hard. The relationship may have been abusive and not safe for your child to be around. Some parents do not choose to continue to see their children, and some parents make it difficult for the other to do so. In these situations children will find it much harder to cope and may feel ‘stuck in the middle’.
Planned Shared Parenting
If you plan to have a baby together whilst not in a relationship, take the opportunity to talk about your views and ideas on how you want to raise your child.
Your new partner may also have children. Families come in all shapes and sizes and the ‘joining up’ of family units is very common. If parents are sensitive to the needs of their children this can be a positive experience.
Separation or Divorce
Separation may involve bad feelings between parents. Children can pick up on this which can make them confused and unhappy. Sometimes children can even blame themselves for the break-up.
To support children during a separation and help them with their worries, you should;
Whilst every relationship goes through difficult times, if children are around arguments and conflict regularly it is harmful to them.
Children who are around conflict, notice it. Even if they seem too little, or are in bed, or in another room they will know. Children are very tuned in to the world around them. They can be scared and worried when their parents aren’t getting on.
Try Relate’s Argument Check Up. See how you and your partner can improve the way you discuss things.
If the arguments carry on, counselling support can make a difference. You can go together or separately. It can give you time and space to work out how to improve your relationship. You might decide the relationship is over. Relationship counsellors can help you manage this as well as possible for you and your children.
Having parents who are looking after their own wellbeing during difficult times will make a difference how children manage their own feelings. You are not alone in how you are feeling.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.
Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.