Parental Separation and Divorce

May 4, 2008 – 7:24 pm

The effect of parental separation on children can be catastrophic, whether it comes ‘out of the blue’ or if there has been conflict in the home before, during and after the separation.

A family break up is like bereavement and children often find it difficult to cope with the strong emotions that arise from such a loss.

Symptoms of distress following a parental break up can include

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Bedwetting
  • Behavioural problems
  • Bullying
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Falling- out with friends
  • Low self esteem
  • Guilt (thinking it is their fault)
  • Increased dependency
  • Minor health problems

Boys and girls are affected equally but may show their shock and upset in different ways. Whilst teenagers may use their peers as a source of support, younger children rarely confide in their friends, seeing them as playmates rather than confidantes. It may be difficult to discuss things with their parents too, as they are so deeply involved in the situation and are probably upset themselves.

Having an independent, experienced person to talk things through with in their own language can be a great help. Counselling can provide an opportunity for the child to express unsettling feelings and develop strategies for coping with the changes in home life. See “Daddy’s left us” for more information about how counselling can help a child in this situation.

  1. One Response to “Parental Separation and Divorce”

  2. Most people would agree that Christmas is portrayed in the media as a magical time for children, but sadly this is often not the case. Children whose parents have split up during the past year may face the prospect of having their Christmas divided between two homes. Or worse, of not seeing one of their parents at all. Sometimes children tell us that a parent has just not ‘turned up’ to see them at Christmas as they promised and they feel really hurt and rejected by this. However, if Mum and Dad can agree the arrangements in advance and make sure their children know what will happen when and who will be where on the important days, this will go a long way to alleviating the distress children feel when facing this situation for the first time.

    Also, some children feel guilty if they are not spending Christmas Day with one parent because it is the other parent’s ‘turn’ to have them. If this is the case it is important to be positive and upbeat about this, reassuring them that everyone is happy about the arrangement and planning a special celebration when they return.

    By Sue Twort on Nov 30, 2009

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