As a new year begins, many of us will be looking at the year ahead as a time of change.
For many parents across the UK, this may also be a time of anxiety and stress; sadly, many family breakups tend to occur around the holidays.
With so many things to be resolved, the process of separation can easily feel overwhelming.
Quite often, one or both parents may feel that they have been treated badly by the other, making it more difficult for them to sit down with a level head to make arrangements for their children.
All too often, children can find themselves caught between warring parents, and sometimes, being used as a pawn in arguments between them.
More often than not, it is the father that moves out, while the mother stays in the family home with the children. It is quite common though for our service users in high conflict break-ups to tell us that time with the children is used as a bargaining chip against them.
When parents split up, there is often a lot of hurt and anger on both sides.
Sometimes, a parent will consider that the behaviour of one parent in the lead up to separation is what split the family apart , meaning they have ‘forfeited their right’ to see the children.
We can all understand why a parent may feel that way in the heat of the moment – however, we should never forget that the children’s interests should always come first, and in most cases, a continued meaningful relationship with their father is of great benefit to them in both the short and long term.
Children today enjoy the involvement of their fathers much more often than in the past.
Indeed, one recent study estimated that the time fathers spend actively involved with their children increased by 200% between 1974 and 2000. This has been a hugely positive development, as research indicates that having a caring, involved father has a wide range of positive influences on children.
This was neatly summed up by Professors Richard Layard and Judy Dunn in a study for The Children’s Society in 2009:
“Fathers are no less important than mothers in a child’s life. The closeness of fathers to their children influences the children’s later psychological wellbeing , even after allowing for the mother’s influence. If fathers are more closely involved with their children, other things being equal, children develop better friendships, more empathy, high self-esteem, better life satisfaction, and higher educational achievement, and they are less likely to become involved with crime or substance abuse.”
There can also be many benefits for both parents as well. When fathers and mothers are both fully involved with the children after separation it is easier to manage work and family commitments together.
This can avoid a parent from either becoming overwhelmed with responsibilities or feeling frozen out, which in turn can help to reduce the scope for arguments after separation. This point is particularly important, as one of the greatest fears separating parents often have is the effect that divorce or separation may have on their children.
Whilst these transitions will always be difficult initially, research suggests that it is parental conflict which has a greater impact upon child wellbeing than whether mum and dad are still together.
It can be very difficult to plan for the future when emotions are still raw immediately after separation, but the involvement of fathers in most cases is highly beneficial for children. The shift from husband and wife to ‘coparents’ can be a difficult one, but it is hugely beneficial for children when this can be done as smoothly as possible to ensure the relationship with both parents remains stable.
If you need any information or support on parenting arrangements after separation, you can access Families Need Fathers’ support services via the website on www.fnf.org.uk.
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