As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure our children’s needs are the highest priority to help them transition and adjust to the new family structure. It is not about the parent’s needs; it is about the children’s needs to stay connected with family beyond separation.
Separation is emotionally charged whereby we can become so consumed with the anger and the pain of the breakup that it can impact our decision making, daily functioning and behaviour. Our internal focus on what is happening to us, how we feel at the loss of control of our own life sends us into self-destruction. The loss of trust can make us become hyper vigilant awaiting the next threat. We can feel we have been caught off guard, asleep at the wheel, unaware that the person we love has detonated our relationship leaving us in the aftermath of despair to attempt to rebuild our lives. Conversely, we may have been the one who has detonated the relationship and our hate for our ex, the desire to remove them from our life has devastating effects on the children who become collateral damage.
Children often get swept up in the conflict between warring parents becoming the innocent bystanders walking on eggshells, or assigned the role of messengers to deliver explosive commentary between their parents or their routine disrupted as they are enmeshed in the tug of war of shared parenting. This can make the children feel the loss of stability and security within a family unit which should be their safe haven. They may feel they have to choose sides, feel guilty for wanting to see the other parent or a deep sadness that their parents are no longer happy. This can have a major effect on their development and behaviour as they try to survive the chaos and uncertainty at home.
These children may endure the wrath of parental conflict for many years triangulated between each parent causing them to have had a separation focused childhood where they may feel very insecure, anxious and resentful. Their emotional and psychological needs may have been neglected impacting their self-worth and self-esteem as well as impacts on developing relationships with others.
It is so important for parents to be good role models through separation for their children’s sake. Children often learn from your behaviour so you may have been teaching them to be kind and caring pre-separation and then amidst separation you are being spiteful and nasty to the other parent making the child very sad and confused as to why you are being so mean. You and your ex are the most important people who they adore, so to see you both fighting and sniping at each other can be devastating for their sense of emotional safety and security.
Your problem-solving skills are learned by your children to equip them for their challenges ahead in life. It is important that you resolve problems in a respectful and calm manner, showing strength of character and resolve that tough situations can be challenging but being solution focused to find a win/win outcome for the whole family ensures that everyone’s needs are considered. If problem solving is filled with blame, vindictiveness and disrespect then children can adopt similar traits for solving their own problems into the future which is not constructive.
Think about what your child’s needs are; a calm, healthy, loving environment with their family. This can be provided after separation in two loving homes. Children can thrive in shared parenting, if they have minimal conflict, a good relationship with both parents and are provided with good parenting.
Be the parent your child needs you to be during separation, they look up to you, they adore you and they need you to make an environment that is calm and nurturing.
So, would you like your child’s 18th birthday speech to say they had a child focused separation where mum & dad helped us through the family crisis with love and support ensuring we were able to love and be loved by each parent? Or will your child reflect that they had a separation focused childhood which fills them with sadness that their childhood wasn’t a happy one.
The power is in your hands to help your children thrive after separation!
Author – Cheryl Duffy
CDC® Divorce Coach, DCA® Conflicted Co-Parenting Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, Author