National awareness raising week – Supporting children through separation
If you have decided with certainty that you are going to separate you need to plan how to tell the children and support them generally.
Our family law solicitors detail below a few things to consider and recommend you consult the Resolution website, which has various documents containing guidance and advice and more particularly the leaflet ‘helping parents to help children’ available online.
1. Telling the children; ideally, both parents should be present when having the initial conversation telling the children about separation but if this would create more tension, separate discussions can take place. If you are having separate discussions, avoid placing blame and agree what you are going to say beforehand as children benefit from hearing similar messages from both parents.
2. Address their concerns; reassure children as to when and how they will see both parents and where they will live and attend school. Allow children to ask questions about any concerns they have and if you do not have the answers, indicate you are working out the details and that they will be the first to know.
3. Understand how they might be feeling; your children’s feelings about the separation may be different to yours. They may experience a range of emotions and they need to be supported in expressing feelings of anger or upset. Identify behaviours that are acceptable and behaviours that are not, with clear consequences for behaviours that are not. Identify healthy and appropriate ways to express anger or upset.
4. Things they need to hear; children should understand that they are not to blame for the separation and that there is nothing they can do to change what is happening within the family. They should know that they can talk to either of you about any concerns or questions they might have. Reassure your children that they are loved by both of you, they can always love both parents and that they will always have a family.
5. Managing your relationship as separated parents; try to address the other person in a respectful manner and be polite when discussing arrangements rather than criticising or assigning blame. Avoid using handovers as a time to discuss issues and instead communicate separately via email, text or arrange a separate meeting in person to address outstanding issues. Do not have heated discussions or arguments in the presence of the children.
If you are able to reach an agreement concerning the arrangements for the children, you may like to draw up a parenting plan so that you both know the parameters of the agreement.
You can download a basic parenting plan from the CAFCASS website; alternatively, we can assist in drafting a document setting out the agreed arrangements.
You may also like to agree methods of communication moving forwards and perhaps benefit from the use of a handover book. Tomorrow’s article will cover this in more detail.
Our Family Law solicitors are among the best in the South. If you have a legal matter that requires the expertise of one of our separation lawyers, contact us today on 0800 2800 421. We have law offices in Salisbury, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Winchester to meet your requirements.