How to Protect Your Kids During a Family Separation

family separation

According to the UK family law website, 56% of separated families go to great lengths to protect their children by sticking to child maintenance agreements. A further breakdown translates into 2.4 million separated families and 3.6 million affected children (2020 statistics). Indeed, it is a legal requirement to protect all minors under age eighteen from avoidable trauma associated with these separations. Unfortunately, some families fall through the crack and forget about safeguarding their kids’ physical, mental, and emotional stability. This article details some ways to offer protection. If you want to know more, please find out what these are. 

  • Keep court proceedings uncomplicated

It’s an open secret that court proceedings involving family separations can be lengthy. Apart from the emotionally draining nature of these proceedings, it usually affects children. Sometimes, the court proceedings can take on a dog-eat-dog nature, causing things to spiral out of control. However, it is the responsibility of the family involved to agree to make proceedings as uncomplicated as possible.

During these times, a crucial decision revolves around who takes custody of the children. Indeed, this is one of the most sensitive aspects of the separation proceedings. Children face a lot of pressure when they can’t decide when choosing which parent to live with. Moreover, it’s easy for kids to be torn between which parent to live with when they are young. The feeling of having to choose one parent over the other intensifies the emotional turmoil they already feel from the proceedings. All these explain why you must make deliberate efforts to keep all family separation court sessions easy and smooth for the sake of your young ones.

  • Children should hear about the separation directly from you

Hearing the news from the horse’s mouth is better than having to listen to it elsewhere. According to several clinical psychologists, hearing about the news of separation from the parents themselves presents an opportunity to lessen the blow. Additionally, it is a perfect moment to explain to the kids that the breakup is not their fault and not because you love them any less.

At no point should children feel that the family separation results from something they did or didn’t do. According to a Research Gate survey, most children under age eighteen fear abandonment when parental conflicts arise. Therefore, their anxiety is further heightened when separations happen. 

  • Avoid venting out on the kids or in their presence

No matter how things pan out during the legal process of family separation, one of the worst things you can do is vent your frustration on the kids. Understandably, the emotional burden of separations can take a toll on your mental health, leading to outbursts, even when you don’t intend to. There are instances where parents going through the separation process vent repressed feelings of anger and disappointment. The terrible part is when children become the targets of these episodes. It can scar them for life.

Furthermore, venting out on kids is not the only issue. It can be directly between the parties involved. Admittedly, post-marital conflicts can be utterly malicious and vicious. During these conflicts, the parties involved direct attacks on each other without realising its impact on minors in the short or long term. Children are sensitive to adverse events. Therefore, you have the utmost responsibility to protect your children’s sanity regardless of the situation.

  • Allow kids to communicate how they feel

Although you’re protecting your kids from possible harsh repercussions of the separation process, you must encourage them to communicate their feelings. What you must not do is force the concept of ‘being strong’ onto your children. This means, when your kids cry or feel upset about the entire situation, let them express emotions through this means.

However, it would be best if you guided them from harmful and disruptive behaviours. On the flip side, your kids may not react at all. It could be a delayed reaction or your child’s ability to come to terms with the separation. People tend to forget that kids are resilient and recover quicker from adverse events than adults.

  • Continue to stay involved in the kids’ lives

Due to children’s tendency to feel abandoned by their parents when separation happens, it is of utmost significance to stay involved in their lives. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. The most important thing is to make your child feel your presence, care, and love even in the eye of the separation storm. In this case, it doesn’t matter who has full custody or not. Unless the court says otherwise, the other party has rights to the child or children as much as you do.

The idea behind both parents staying involved in the child’s life is to maintain a sense of normalcy where parenting is concerned. Unless a court of competent jurisdiction proves that one parent (or both) poses a danger to the minor in question, you should follow through with staying involved.

  • Uphold respectful boundaries in discussions with kids

Usually, during separation discussions, there is the tendency to badmouth the other parent to the children. You don’t need an expert to tell you this is wrong. Badmouthing the estranged spouse or the other parent creates emotional distancing and feelings of hostility. Unfortunately, a 2017 survey on separated families discovered something quite revealing. It stated that 35% of parents do that without realising the repercussions.

  • Do not deny your separated spouse access to the kids

Understandably, several emotions are at play, and a natural reaction with some people is to deny the other partner access to the kids. Without realising the consequences of their actions, minors inadvertently become objects of punishment. Any attempt to disrupt one parent’s natural right of access can sow seeds of mental instability in kids.

Therefore, the mature thing to do is to put your emotions aside in the best interest of the children you both share. In any family separation, children must be the priority as parents take deliberate steps to protect them.

 

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

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