Parent separation can be a difficult time for children of any age, and the media is often filled with messages around the negative impact that separation has on a child’s wellbeing.
However, the truth is that the factors predicting child wellbeing in separated families are the same as those in non-separated families. It is normal to expect a period of age-appropriate adjustment to a big change like this, but there are some things you can do to assist your child following parental separation.
One of the most important things you can do to help children with separation and divorce anxiety is to listen to their concerns and validate their feelings. Make time for difficult conversations with your children. Talk about the separation and what has happened. It is important to let them know that it is okay to feel sad, angry, or scared and to reassure them that you will be there for them no matter what. Teach your child skills to cope and stay safe. Teach them ways to express their feelings as well as protective behaviours like learning to listen to their body, trust their feelings and instincts, and tell you or others about their needs.
You can help children feel more secure with established routines, stability and predictability and sticking to them as much as possible, even during change. Where possible, encourage the other parents to keep the same rules and routines at all houses the child spends time at and keep a consistent schedule around when the child sees each parent.
Respect the other parent. Continue shared responsibility for children whenever it is safe to do so. This means each parent supporting the other parent in maintaining (or building) a strong relationship with the child and creating a cooperative relationship with each other. Avoid blaming or bad mouthing the other parent to your child, talking to them about your relationship problems and limit the exposure children must high emotionally conflict, verbal and physical violence.
There is overwhelming evidence that the strongest single predictor of negative child outcomes are family violence and inter-parent conflict. Parental separations that remove children from home environments where there is chronic conflict and violence improves the wellbeing of the child.
Seek your own support. The better you are coping, the better your children will cope. Your healing is very important to your children. Finally, stay positive! don’t despair – most children manage the separation experience in the longer term.
Where appropriate, collaborative dispute resolution processes such as mediation is recommended over litigation; and where there are concerns relating to a parent having contact with the child, our services can provide a safe solution.
Our Fully Funded, Children’s Contact Centre can provide safe and supportive contact between children and their non-resident parents. Our main focus is child safety and we can help you through the process to have contact with your child. We are fully funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, so we can help families in financial difficulty.
For more information you can call or text the Children’s Contact Centre coordinator at 0427 913 850.
If you are feeling unsafe or are experiencing domestic and family violence you can access support here: