Tuesday, 20 October 2015

How to protect your kids during a relationship breakdown

Relationship breakdowns can be traumatic for couples, but often it’s the children who end up suffering the most. So, if you’re in the process of separating from your partner, you might be worried about the impact this will have on your youngsters. One thing’s for sure though, you’re not alone. In the UK, over four million kids now live in separated families. The good news is, there are ways that you can limit the negative effects of a relationship breakdown on your children. This brief guide talks you through the basics.

Keep conflict to a minimum
Firstly, it’s important to try to keep any anger between you and your partner under control. Kids can quickly become distressed if they see or hear their parents arguing. If possible, discuss your problems when your children aren’t around, and try to at least be civil to one another in front of your youngsters. If you need a legal separation from your partner, it’s useful if you can reach an agreement out of court, and family mediation can play an important role in this. This can be less stressful than going through the courts and it considers the needs of kids above the feelings of parents.

Make effective contact arrangements
However you decide to separate, it’s crucial that you make effective contact arrangements with your youngsters. Legal experts The Law House draw attention to the importance of gaining clarity on issues such as parental responsibility, custody and access. It’s much better if you and your partner can come to an amicable agreement over the care of your kids, focussing on issues like who they will normally live with and how much contact they will have with the other parent. If you’re struggling to come to an arrangement, try using a mediation service and only go to court as a last resort.

Also, it’s best to avoid asking your children who they would rather live with. This can put them under pressure and leave them feeling guilty.

Don't keep your children in the dark
Many parents think that keeping their children in the dark about their separations will protect them. However, childcare specialists agree that in fact it’s better to make sure kids are informed at each stage of breakups. Of course, they don’t need to know every detail and there may be some aspects of your relationship breakdown that your youngsters never need to know, but when it comes to the practical arrangements, children benefit from understanding what’s going on. With this in mind, it’s useful to encourage kids to ask questions and to ensure they feel listened to.  

Offer reassurance
Always be careful in the language you use with your children too. Often, kids feel parental separations are their fault, and it’s vital that you reassure them this is not the case. Also, make sure they know that both their parents still love them and that the breakup will not affect this.

On a related point, don’t fall into the trap of putting your kids in the middle of disputes. Asking them to take messages for you, keep secrets or give you information about your partner can put your children in an awkward position and it can harm your relationship with them.

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