Its never easy when you decide to separate there can be a lot of emotions and what about the children? Many couples choose to stay together for the sake of the children, but then what do we model to our children about relationships if we stay and are miserable? I believe we all deserve to be happy whether that is together or apart, that’s for each one of us to decide.
If you have decided to separate then it’s important to meet the needs of the children so they can adjust to life with parents living apart. This can be difficult to do but robust caring support is vital at such a difficult time for all the family.
I work with so many children and families that get caught up in the conflict or are trying to recover from a separation or divorce.
Here are some handy tips to help you navigate the difficulty of addressing separation with children, formed from questions I have been asked over my years of working with couples and families.
When do we tell them?
Don’t wait for the for sale sign to go up to tell the children you are separating, they pick up on the unease at home even if you are not fighting. Its much better to have the facts than for them to worry unnecessarily, they often imagine much worse than the reality. Start preparing them for the changes as soon as possible with honest conversations about practicalities but also talk about the feelings. Yes we can acknowledge that its sad but there may also be anger too, be prepared for a whole raft of emotions. There maybe just silence at first if the news comes as a shock, give them space and time and let them know you are there if they want to talk.
What about small children how will they understand?
There are some great books to help small children understand the process of separation. these creative stories and pictures help little ones make sense of situations, don’t be surprised if they read them over and over again as they process the information. Be honest but respectful when talking about your partner it’s still your child’s mum or dad even if you don’t want to be with them anymore. Offer plenty of reassurance and be prepared for questions but don’t be surprised if children are quiet and come to you later on, they may need time to process and think about things.
I feel ashamed and I don’t want anyone to know.
Its easy to feel a sense of failure when a relationship ends and shame can keep us quiet and its tempting to keep our stuff private. However it may be useful to have a quiet word with a teacher for small children, so they know what’s happening at home and can support your child. They can keep an eye on your child for any unexpected behaviour, children may become angry or they may regress. Children are resilient and they do adjust in time to new situations with plenty of love and reassurance. The right support can make all the difference to a young person that’s feeling overwhelmed with big emotions.
Is it better to keep them out of the process?
Change is difficult and scary but it can be exciting too, I would suggest you can include the children in some of the plans for the future. For example let them see pictures of the second home, if there is going to be one. Can they help choose the new furniture bed clothes for their bedroom. It’s important to keep talking so that children know what to expect and can manage the process of change, its not unusual for children to blame themselves for the separation so its important to have plenty of reassurance. Tell them that you still love them and they are not to blame and both parents will still be available to them.
Useful Book Resources For Parents
- Understanding Children’s Needs When Parents Separate – Emilia Dowling & Di Elliot
- Was it the chocolate pudding, a story about divorce – Sandra Levins
- Mum Dad and the Glue – Kes Gray
- Two Homes – Claire Masurel
(Please be aware these resources may evoke powerful feelings of grief and loss , make sure you have the time and space when using them and take care of yourselves)
Support is available through individual, family or play therapy, just give me a call if you have any questions.
We are living in difficult times and many have lost their jobs and the Government Cuts in budget have finally reached me yesterday.
I went to my school of several years to be told that my contract won’t be renewed this year, its was a shock, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I finish in July and my Head Teacher is telling me this with tears in her eyes, she doesn’t want to be giving me this news.
Budgets have been cut and Counselling it seems is seen as an added luxury that they can live without. There is a CAMHS service but its overloaded to breaking point, it will be many months before kids get seen it’s a familiar story, there is no where near enough mental health services to fill demand.
I too try to hold it together but the tears are starting to form, I reassure my head teacher that I will be OK, I am in a good position financially I have a safety net and I am resourceful. Self employment is a precarious game to play. I have been made redundant several times as an employed person and although its hard I have bounced back and gone on to bigger and better things. This month is hard because both of my contracts have been ended at the same time, all the eggs in my basket of been smashed but the Governments Axe
It’s not the financial side of things that is so difficult thankfully for me, I can survive on very little I have been here before, these days I have a pound for the electricity meter. It’s the pain of separation the ending of a relationship. Not just the relationship I have with the teenagers I work with but the school itself.
I started in this school a long time ago and it was my first school and experience of working with younger clients. I said I would never work with children but I got asked to and gave it a go. I went on to train as a play therapist because of these children and school and I have worked in many schools now and I find I am able to engage and relate to them like I never thought I would.
Each Monday my room is full of children coming and going, and all manner of problems are discussed and processed, children dealing with divorced parents, drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, self harm, bullying, exam pressures you name it we have seen it. Tissues and hugs are plentiful in my therapy room.
The thought of not being able to go to my school on Mondays feels heart breaking right now, and I have had to break the news to my clients, many are vulnerable and not in the greatest of places. They don’t talk to their friends or teachers or parents, they have found one place that’s accepting non judgemental and most of all they can just come in charge their phones, Grab a drink , eat their snacks and tell me about whatever they are struggling with.
That place won’t be there for them next year and neither will I, that hurts and the tears are flowing right now. I worry how they will cope, I know they will but it still feels really painful to have to say goodbye its hard not to feel I have let them down. I know I haven’t I have given them everything I could, to keep them safe and well.
I have thought about offering to carry on working for the school without a salary so the kids have support but I now this is about me not wanting to let go and deal with the separation, wanting to hang on. I also have to deal with my own boredom at not having schools to work in. That will get filled with marketing activity and working for free isn’t realistic, I don’t have funders and my savings won’t last long enough if I do.
Everyone knows that ending relationships of any type can be sad but ending so many in one go is overwhelmingly difficult, we have share so much together and some clients have been with me for such a long time. Letting 16 go all at the same time is especially hard particularly when we haven’t finished the work and nobody wants to stay goodbye. I have worked with some for years, and they have all got a place in my heart as does the school.
I gave my Head teacher a hug and told her I will be OK because I know I will. I have been through much adversity and fought my way through. When the shock and the grief subsides I will get leaflets out and Max and I will go hunting for more work and more clients to work with, some will find us and we have lost not all our clients we still have some.
We have lost 90% of our clients due to funding cuts in both primary and secondary schools. Its happening everywhere and its not the financial pain here it’s the emotional pain of saying goodbye and letting go.
I will always be fond of my first school and they tell me they want to become an Academy which will give them more control over their budgets. The head Teacher tells me she may come and find me again if that happens as she doesn’t want to let me go either.
So many counselling and support services are folding due to the recession and lack of funding and at a time when mental health issues are at an all time high I find it hard to understand how childrens exams and academic achievements always seem to be prioritised over their emotional well being, but that’s a grumble for another day.
We will survive and so will my clients because we do don’t we?.We are human beings with an incredible resilience and strength and our basic survival instincts kick in.
I would like to thank my school and all the clients their for sharing their stories and for giving me the opportunity to work with them and for opening the door to working with children in schools. I will never forget my first school that has taught me so much.
Thank you for reading my blog and for your support. We have been fired but I don’t think it will be too long before we are hired and start the process all over again. With Endings comes new beginnings and I find it quiet therapeutic to write about my experiences and work them through. My tears are healthy and better to be cried that bottled up.
Endings will be managed over the remaining weeks of term and if you or anyone you know needs counselling coaching or clinical supervision services. I know an excellent therapist who is here to help, with hugs and tissues.
I am strong, resourceful, determined, motivated and most of all a survivor and whilst the road gets bumpy everything is temporary and we will go onwards and upwards of that I have very little doubt.
Much love to each and all of you, where ever you are and if your road gets too bumpy you know where I am.
Mel & Max.