How to make divorce easier on children

Posted: Wednesday February 21 2018

By: Vanessa Fox

How to make divorce easier on children

When couples separate, the first concern of the couple involved is the effect and their children. Often couples have stayed together for longer than they would have otherwise have done to minimise this.

It is best, in my opinion, to concentrate on common sense and practical measures to reduce the impact.

One study about the effect of separation on children concluded that a quick divorce is worse for children than an acrimonious one and that these children may be less likely to succeed in life as a result.

In my experience no one finds a divorce easy – a separation is always emotionally, financially and sometimes legally difficult. No couple enters into the process because they think it is going to be easy. Even amicable separations are hard on children – but if both parents work to safeguard them, there is no reason why children of separated parents should not grow up to achieve fulfilled lives.

Over years of helping couples through their separation, I can suggest ways how estranged couples can make their split easier on their children:If possible, sit down together to tell your children that there is to be a separation or divorce. Keep explanations simple; try not to blame each other. 

  • Always put your children’s welfare, not your own, first, and avoid unnecessary squabbles. Strive to remain cordial despite the very natural feelings of hurt you may have concerning your ex. 
  • Try to reach a quick and easy financial outcome. It is nearly always better to collaborate and to compromise than fight over the financial issues. 
  • Strive to be fair and flexible with each other about children issues, and try to avoid disruption with last minute changes of plan. Routine is always helpful for children but it doesn’t have to be a straitjacket. 
  • Explain in simple terms to the children how their lives will change, particularly major decisions such as where they will live and how often they will see each parent. Both parents need to be flexible about existing routines if children, particularly teenagers, want to alter them.
  • Agree some parenting ground rules with your ex and have monthly coffee meetings to discuss how things are going with the children.
    Avoid getting into a blaming situation with your ex – a spirit of cooperation will go a long way. 
  • Regularly reassure your offspring that you love them – they, in turn, are entitled to continue to love both parents. 
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings and give them time to get used to the new situation. Don’t rush them into meeting any new partner. 
  • Consider family therapy as an option, if the children are struggling or their school reports a problem with their behaviour. Family therapy will include everyone which can be hard, but it can work well in giving the children a chance to be heard.

Ultimately, divorce has been easier to obtain for the last 50 years in the UK. Previously, people were often confined in loveless and abusive relationships. There is no research available as to how those relationships affected children. The number of young people undergoing higher education since the 1970s has rocketed despite divorce numbers rising more than six fold between 1955 and 1985.

I strongly urge all separating couples to do everything they can to ensure their split is as non-confrontational as possible. They can work with professional advisers to resolve family disputes constructively and invest in one of the collaborative routes to divorce to reduce tension and conflict.