No one wants or expects a family breakdown, and it is one of the most painful experiences to go through. However, there are steps you can take to support your child.
When a relationship ends, there are feelings of hurt, anger, pain, frustration, and disbelief.
Many parents also struggle with a sense of failure and guilt as they contemplate their child coming from a broken home.
Some parents mistakenly believe that staying together ‘for the sake of the children’ is better than separating. But if the children are growing up in an atmosphere that is toxic, abusive, and marred with high levels of parental conflict, this is more harmful than separating.
Child protection involves protecting children from significant harm, or the risk of significant harm. So, if the family situation is violent and unsafe, then separating is the wisest course of action.
Children are remarkably resilient and there are ways that parents can best support them through a family breakdown.
Most importantly parents need to consider the situation from their child’s perspective.
A child can feel like their entire world has been torn apart. They experience a sense of loss and grief, along with feelings of insecurity and abandonment.
They feel upset, scared, and confused. And they blame themselves for their parent’s separation.
How they need to be reassured that none of this is their fault!
Ways to help your children include:
- Understand that their behaviour will speak volumes.
- Allow them to express their feelings as hard as it may be.
- Reassure them of your love and remind them the other parent also loves them.
- Be honest in answering any questions they have.
- Keep a sense of structure in day-to-day family life by keeping routines going as much as possible.
- Accept support from family members and friends. Having grandparents and friends whom children can turn to for support is highly beneficial.
- Don’t put your children in the crossfire between you both. Don’t let them take difficult phone calls or text messages or have to mediate between you.
- Consciously avoid arguing, blaming or name calling and choose to take the higher ground for your child’s benefit.
- Get professional help from a skilled psychologist or organisation such as Relationships Australia.
After a family breakdown, shared custody means both parents share the care for their child. Often this means that a child will need to split their time between two homes which is a huge adjustment.
One family I know approached this creatively by having the children stay put and the parents were the ones who came and went from the home.
Obviously, this is not going to work for everyone but the number one priority for these parents was putting their children’s needs ahead of their own.
This is the greatest gift parents can give their children.