Thursday, 19 February 2015

How I helped my children cope with their parents separation.

If you have been following my twitter and my previous living arrows post, you will know that my children are currently away spending time with their father. I wanted to write a long blog post on how I cope with being separated from them every school holiday but couldn't quite find the words and also I decided I was being selfish. It's not about me, its about them needing time with their dad and their dad needing time with his children. It breaks my heart that my children do not have a normal family with both parents living together like I did up to the age of 12 and also having their dad living so far away must be hard for them. I don't want to bad mouth their father or go into the reasons we broke up but it definitely was not a happy environment for the children to grow up in when we were together. This is a far better option for everyone. We still do not get on as there is always a new dispute to solve. When we argue, it can be frustrating and painful but I have to ensure the children cannot hear and are not aware of these fights happening. To them, their parents are the best of friends. The fact that their family is broken must be very hard in itself so there is no need for the added stress of their parents fighting. I am very aware though that we are not the only broken family in the world, in fact it's extremely common these days with 42% of marriages in England and wales ending in divorce. I luckily never married my children's father but that doesn't mean my children don't suffer the same hardships as those whose parents were married.

I wanted to share some tips on helping your children cope with their parents divorce/separation that I have picked up along the way.

1. Keep your children informed of whats happening
It is OK if you keep certain things about your break up a secret from your children but they do need to know the basics especially if it effects their future. They need to know what will happen next for example, who they will live with and when they will see their other parent. Also if they will remain in their current house or school. 

2. Don't criticise or fight with your ex in front of your child
I am guilty of calling my ex names in front of my children, calling him useless and unworthy of his 'dad' title but I have realised now that I was completely in the wrong for saying this to my children. I have had to explain to them many times that sometimes people say hurtful things when they are upset. I have learnt better ways to communicate my feelings by discussing them with my ex instead of my children. It is not helpful/fair to bring them into arguments or adult discussions. 

3. Respect the relationship they have with the other parent
The children see their dad as 'superman' and have always looked up to him as a role model. He cannot do anything wrong in their eyes. Even though I see and know different, it is not my place to ruin things for them. I want them to make their own minds up about him and to love their dad no matter what, family is important. Also, I want them to be able to spend time with their father without feeling guilty of upsetting me. I hate them leaving me but I never show the way I feel, I am friendly to their father and  I always smile when waving them off. 

4. Create a plan
Children need routine to feel safe so create a plan that they will understand of what will happen in the future and keep to it. I did this a few years ago and it has been a big help. My ex partner and I both have a copy and have signed it with a promise not to break the rules set in place. It sets out when he sees the children, when he can phone, and an agreement to take turns to have the children for Christmas day. There are other rules too which I cannot discuss but it's really helped the children to know what is happening and what to expect.

5. Respect that your ex may discipline your children differently
I sometimes feel anxious about what my boys are allowed to do when they are with my ex. They come home from his house sometimes completely off the rails. I stay calm though as it does not take them long to adjust back to how I expect them to behave. I have discussed with their father my concerns over how they are disciplined but I have now decided to back off to allow him to be a father. The boys do not see him or their grandparents very often so they are going to get a little spoilt. Its nice for them to let themselves go a little I guess, especially if its during the school holidays.

6. Reassurance
My children have never said this but after talking to another parent I thought I would include it in my list. My friend said that her children blamed themselves for their parents divorce. When my parents separated, I too felt like this. Me and my sister were typical teenagers who went of the rails a little so caused many arguments between the family. I thought the stress from our teenage rebellions was the reason my mum left but it wasn't, she just wasn't happy. Kids tend to be 'egocentric' and believe that their behaviour or thoughts cause bad events. They need to know that the adults have made this decision based on their relationship and it has nothing to do with them.

7. Patience
When a family is in the process of braking up, children can begin to act up. It is not uncommon for children to wet their bed, or refuse to listen. Give them extra time, your support and open communication. My youngest was only 6 months when his parents separated so wasn't affected but Alfie was. He started biting and hitting other children at nursery. I was constantly being called in for parent meetings to discuss his change of behaviour. Luckily the nursery was very understanding of our situation and offered to help me support Alfie. Over time Alfie's behaviour improved as he adapted to the changes in his life.

Divorce/separation is hard on everyone. If children continue to feel loved by both of their parents and their parents continue to work to create a stable calm environment for their children, children can emerge from the situation unscathed.

Gem x

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  1. Big Trouble in Little Nappies20 February 2015 at 18:44

    This is such a helpful and brave post. It is not selfish to miss them and feel sad - it's about you as well - but you're obviously doing them such a great service and putting them first all the time. I hope you are back together soon and things become easier over time with their Dad x

  2. This was a really good idea for a post. I am separated from my daughter's dad but she is only 18 months old and she doesn't really know anything is different. He still comes over most days and we take her out as a family etc. I don't really know what the future holds but I do worry about how I will handle the situation as she gets older.

  3. Mum in a Nutshell12 March 2015 at 06:22

    This is brilliant. As a child of divorced parents, something like this would have eased the pain of the break up for us. I'm so glad you put not to argue in front of the children near the top as I see so many other people do this not realising what it's like for the children to witness it. found you via brilliant blog posts

  4. Natalie McNamara15 March 2015 at 03:56

    Gem this is fantastic. I have a girlfriend struggling through this at the moment and this will help her immensely. Thanks


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