We can all agree on one thing: children are innocent bystanders when it involves parents separating – it is never their fault. Children need to be protected from conflict during marital breakdown.
Last year, I was listening to a broadcast on what a modern divorce can look like, and the commentator’s words resonated with me as a public health nurse, a public health educator and a parent. We need to protect children and help educate parents about the harm that can be caused by children witnessing parents in conflict. If you are separating from your partner, try to minimize the conflict that children are being exposed to.
Don’t forget children do not get another childhood.
We cannot be ex-mothers or ex-fathers. It’s important to continue to love and support children involved, and put their needs first. They need a healthy parent-child relationship where they feel safe, secure, and loved. Children learn about relationships from witnessing the relationships around them. Lead by example – if children see their parents being co-operative, kind, caring and treating each other’s with respect they will be more likely to adopt this into their own lives.
Let us all be aware of the environment our children are blooming in, and give them the healthiest environment possible!
Tips for parents going through a separation or divorce:
- Be age-aware. In general, younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation, while older kids may need more information.
- Share logistical information. Do tell kids about changes in their living arrangements, school, or activities, but don’t overwhelm them with the details.
- Keep it real. No matter how much or how little you decide to tell your kids, remember that the information should be truthful above all else.
- Listen to your children and help them find the words for their feelings, acknowledge their feelings, be patient, give reassurance and love.
- Never fight in front of the children.
- Role model effective communication skills.
- Always let your child know how much they are loved.
- Anticipate that this will be a difficult time for everyone – transition is hard, be patient.
- Establish routines and boundaries so the kids know what to expect.
- Talk to someone about your feelings, learn ways to cope with stress.