Last Thursday night BBC2 screened a documentary about the effects on children of their parents splitting up. Speaking to teenagers and young people, and featuring interviews with the separated parents too, the end result was a touching and saddening account of the effects of separation on children.
The film claims that a third of British children live with only one biological parent, and therefore separation and divorce is a fact of life for many children. From Darryl, who harboured hopes that his parents would get back together, to Daisy who felt somehow responsible for the separation, the way in which the separation was handled had a profound impact on all concerned. Natasha, whose relationship with her mother was badly damaged by the way the separation was handled, said that she just wanted her parents to be able to talk to each other, to communicate better.
The documentary can be watched again tonight on BBC 2 at 23.20, or is available on iPlayer at the time of posting this blog.
So what can be done to reduce so far as possible the damaging effects of separation and divorce on children? Continued communication, between each other, and with the children, is clearly an important factor. The Guardian article about the programme features advice from Paula Hall, Relate family therapist, who says that the important message to get across is “Mum and I might not be married any more, but we’re still a family. We might live in different houses, and life might be different, but our family still exists, and although we aren’t married, we are still co-parenting you, and you still matter to us more than anything else”. She emphasises the need for parents to get the support they need too, to help them deal with the process and in turn make it easier to support the children.
The BBC article on the programme also features guidance and observations from Paula, stating that her advice “to minimise the impact of divorce on children and young people is to have good contact arrangements and co-parenting communication and minimal conflict.”
One way that this can be achieved is to ensure that you are using the right process of separation and divorce for you and your circumstances. When choosing your Solicitor, look for a member of Resolution who will be committed to helping you reach a solution in a constructive and non-confrontational way which gives careful consideration of the needs of the children. Resolution also have advice for parents on their website about how children can be told about separation and divorce, and how they can be helped with the process. Other methods of dealing with separation and divorce which ensure careful consideration is given to the needs of the children include mediation and collaborative law.
Image by Kevin Utting under a Creative Commons Licence