No such thing as a ‘good’ divorce say parents

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In a poll of separated or divorced parents in Britain, six in ten (60%) of those surveyed in the South of England (excluding London) do not believe in the idea of a ‘good separation’, according to new polling from national charity Relate.

The findings are revealed as Relate Bedfordshire and Luton joins in the national charity’s new campaign aimed at separating and separated parents. Being Parents Apart will offer guidance and support to families across the country, helping to make sure that children and young people cope with any heartache and changes in the best way possible.

The new campaign comes as Relate announces that calls to its national phone line rose by 53% on the first Monday of January 2014 compared to the first Monday of December 2013, with appointment bookings increasing by 86%.

New Year is always a busy time for Relate Bedfordshire and Luton as many couples and families spend concentrated time together during the holidays, which can highlight underlying issues. Relate Bedfordshire and Luton provides a range of crucial services for parents and families, helping to build strong relationships that go the distance in good times and bad.

The new polling, conducted by YouGov, also emphasises that separation and divorce are not simply one-off events which start and end when one parent leaves home. 41% of separated parents polled in the South said their separation took less than a year, with 44% saying it took one to four years and 9% saying five years or more. With 54% of separated parents we asked in the South of England saying that their separation had a negative impact on their children, it’s clear that finding ways of minimising the impact of relationship breakdown on families is crucial.

Angela Foll, Chief Executive of Relate Bedfordshire and Luton, said: “Deciding to separate is never easy, particularly when children are involved. But for some people it’s the best thing to do and the next step is to work out how to go about it.

“Heightened emotions can cause arguments and ill-feeling in a home before, during and after separation and kids often pick up more than we realise. This process can have knock-on effects for some children and young people, including problems at school, alcohol misuse and mental health and wellbeing issues. But having strong relationships that go the distance in good times and bad and knowing how to manage the separation process can improve outcomes for everyone.”

Handling separation

When it comes to handling separation, the parents polled were clear on some things: 85% of those surveyed in the South said that not arguing in front of the children was a better approach than getting children to help resolve parents’ arguments (only 2% chose the latter). Similarly, four fifths (83%) said that keeping the lines of communication open with your ex-partner is important, although one in ten (10%) preferred the strategy of cutting off communication as much as possible. And 83% said it was better to tell children about the changes separation will bring to prepare them, rather than hiding changes in an effort to protect them (though 7% preferred this option).

Getting help

According to other research, one in three UK families with dependent children is affected by separation. Mums and dads can visit for guidance on managing the practical and emotional realities of separation, including a short video from Relate counsellor Paula Hall called ‘Kids and separation’. People can also contact Relate Bedfordshire and Luton to find out more about our services, like face-to-face and telephone relationship counselling, family counselling, children and young people’s counselling and courses for parents.

Expert tips for weathering the separation storm

Diane Whitmore, a counsellor for Relate Bedfordshire and Luton suggests five important things that will help parent-child relationships to weather the separation storm:

1. Help children to accept the pain. It’s important to be optimistic and hopeful when you talk to your children about separation, but just telling them that everything will be fine could leave them unable to share the painful emotions they’re feeling. Encourage them to talk about their feelings to you or another family member or friend.

2. Be prepared for practical and emotional changes. It’s more than likely that there will be two households to support now, so money won’t go as far anymore. And if one of you is starting a new relationship then things could be particularly tense. As parents, you’ll need to work on communicating with each other from the outset so that your children aren’t stuck in the middle of these issues.

3. How you manage leaving day can make a difference. The day that you or your partner leaves home will be one that you all remember for a long time. Try and lessen the practical and emotional impact by preparing everyone in advance and being clear about what’s going to happen.

4. Establish new routines. Children cope best with divorce when they have regular contact with both parents. This includes phone, email and text, as well as face-to-face time. Developing a routine is important, but try and be flexible too as the new arrangements take shape.

5. Let them know its ok to enjoy seeing your ex. Even if you’re seething inside when it’s time to hand over the children, keep a smile on your face when your ex comes to the door and give them all a cheery wave goodbye. Your children must know that it’s fine for them to leave you and enjoy their time with their other parent.