Parenting and Child Guidance | 2 December 2008
Tina Hamilton-James from Parkwood Psychological Therapy in Bristol gave us much food for thought about the effect of divorce and separation on children she gave us a list of Do's and Don'ts
- Put the children first.
- Listen to them, love them and keep them safe.
- Remember that parental separation will cause them a great deal of anxiety, even if they manage to hide it from you.
- Tell the children it's not their fault.
- Tell them what's happening. That means the events that will effect who is where, when and their day to day routines - not the squabbles between parents.
- Listen to what they have to say about it all. Let them talk uninterrupted until they've finished or until they ask a question.
- Help them to ride the storm. Tell them it will be hard and no one can stop the hurt.
- Tell them that they will always be a family even though they won't all be living together.
- Understand that children can find it so hard to manage both parents (sides) that they may refuse to see one parent for a while.
- Support the children's relationship with the other parent.
- Continue to love and discipline them as before.
- Keep changes to a minimum.
- Tell the teachers about the changes and ask for their support in ways you think the child needs it.
- Allow yourself to cry in front of them. Crying is a normal response to sadness and it will give the child "permission" to do the same.
- Tell them they will be safe even if their parents no longer live together.
- Criticise the other parent.
- Assume anyone can take away the child's pain. Parents can make it worse by lying or blaming but there's no painless way for children to accept that their parents are separating.
- Try and keep away their pain by withholding important information.Children recover from adversities like this with good support and modelling by parents. What is crutial to limiting the damage is how the child is helped through the process, not by trying to prevent it touching them.
- Ask them if they still love you. They won't ever say "no" and they can't manage insecure parents as well as their own turmoil.
- Fight in front of them. This is one of the most damaging painful things for a child to experience.
- Use them as messengers.
- Ask them to hide information about anything.
- Ask questions about the other parent.
- Look to the children for emotional support. Provide it for them instead.
- Try and "buy" their love and approval.
- Tell them the details of the separation/divorce.
- Automatically assume that because a child doesn't want to see one parent, that the other parent has "made" them say that or has "poisoned" them in some way. Children are compassionate beings and as such will usually give preference to the parent whom they see as being the most upset by the separation.
Thanks to Tina for this very useful guide.