The Effect of Family Law Proceedings on Children
For this blog post, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the effect of Family Law proceedings on children, and how parents can help their own children through the tough time of separation.
Separation and divorce does not mean the end of your involvement or responsibility as a parent, no matter how often or how little time you may spend with your children. In fact, if anything, you need to be more vigilant and responsive to your children and their emotional needs at this time.
It is important to keep in mind that the way you handle separation very much affects how your children will cope with it.
Where possible, children need the continuing affection and support of both their parents and this will more often than not require you to co-operate with your former partner, even in circumstances where you may not see eye to eye.
A common occurrence amongst children going through a separation is the feeling of being “pushed and pulled” by their parents, and often they are unaware they are doing this and their actions are affecting their children. For example, where one party openly discusses another’s “wrong doings” to the family or their friends, such as feelings of betrayal and ‘walking out’ on the family with or in the presence of the children. When parents hold onto bitter feelings and express them to the children, the children are then caught in the middle of the conflict, and start to suffer. When you denigrate the other parent, the kids themselves often feel it deeply, as they love that parent and they are their blood.
Another common feeling among children of separated parents is that they are to blame for the separation. An important thing for parents to remember if children begin to blame themselves is to reassure them that this is most definitely not the case. Children of any age need reassurance, and never more so than during a painful separation. If they are respectful of each other and the decisions made in the lead up to the separation, children will learn that separation is ok. When it comes to children, it can be far less damaging to go through a family breakdown, than to continue to live in an unhappy family environment where there is extreme tension and high levels of conflict in the home.
Children will see and observe a lot during the proceedings
Further, if parents are in conflict, overhearing or witnessing arguments with each other is harmful and places children at risk of long-term emotional and behavioural problems. The best thing you can do for a child is to shield them from any ongoing conflict. As parents, you must do your very best to be pleasant to the other parent at changeovers and whenever you come into contact with them. You set the example and your children will follow. That means, in circumstances where you sense there will be conflict, attempt to avoid it.
It is such a difficult predicament to have to care for your children’s welfare as well as your own during a time of separation. It is perfectly normal to experience feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, jealousy, guilt and despair. However, if those types of feelings continue, it may be a good idea to seek some counselling as these feelings and your stress will inadvertently affect your children’s’ adjustment to separation. If your are happy and well, your children will be too!
The most important thing to remember as parents of children who are going through separation is that you do have something in common and in most cases that is the best interests of the children.
Ensure that your children know that both of you still love them and speak positively of the other party when speaking to your children. Finally, let your children know that even though the separation feels hard right now, and they may be upset, things will soon improve for everyone involved.
Speak to our an independent children’s lawyer in Melbourne from our team for comprehensive advice, and piece of mind.