I have often thought that we should take research into the effects of divorce on children with a pinch of salt and concentrate on common sense, practical measures to reduce the impact.
The latest study to grab headlines has concluded that a quick divorce is worse for children than an acrimonious one and that they are less likely to succeed in life as a result.
In my extensive experience no divorce is easy – emotionally, financially or legally and nobody enters into the process because they think it is. Even amicable separations are hard on children – but if both parents work to safeguard them, there is no reason why they should not grow up to achieve fulfilled lives.
Below are some tips on how estranged couples can make their split easier on their children:
- If possible, sit down together to tell your children about a separation or divorce. Keep explanations simple and don’t blame each other.
- Always put your children’s welfare, not your own, first and avoid unnecessary squabbles. Strive to remain cordial despite feelings of hurt with your ex.
- Try to reach a quick and easy financial outcome – it is better to collaborate and to compromise than fight over minor issues.
- Strive to be fair and flexible with each other about children issues – avoiding 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 how their lives will change, particularly major decisions such as where they will live and how often they will see each parent. Both parents are urged to be flexible over planned 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 – it works well in many cases.
Ultimately, divorce has been easier to obtain for the last 50 years in the UK. Previously, people were locked into loveless and abusive relationships – however, there is no research available on how this affected children. The number of young people undergoing higher education since the 1970s has also rocketed despite divorce numbers rising more than six fold between 1955 and 1985.
This seems to contradict the claims in the latest study that young adults in the 1970s were far less likely to go to university than those in the 1940s and 50s, when access to divorce was harder.
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.
Collaboratively trained and a qualified mediator, she has modernised South Yorkshire Resolution since becoming chair in 2013 and is also a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Children Panel.
She can be contacted on 0114 290 6232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.