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Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

Family law

Telling the Children

If you have decided to separate from your partner, it can be difficult to tell your children. As a leading family law firm, Prettys of Chelmsford and Ipswich is experienced in giving legal advice to couples in this situation. Here are some questions and answers to help you.

Where do I begin?

If you have decided to separate, telling a child can often be one of the hardest things you will face.  Not only will you be managing your own feelings about the ending of the relationship, your child will be looking to you for reassurance and emotional support. Your aim should be to tell your child in a way that: -

You should aim to provide your child with small bite-sized pieces of factual information that they can absorb and understand, with plenty of reassurance that both parents continue to love them. Avoid conflict in front of them.

So how do I approach this?

If possible, both parents should be present when telling a child about separation.  Discuss together what you will tell the child beforehand; keep explanations simple and avoid blame.  Use general statements such as: “Mum and Dad have decided we would be happier living in different homes.”  Be prepared for questions and ensure you address the main concerns such as where the child will live or go to school; when and how they will see each parent; how life will be different.  If you do not yet know the answers to some questions, let them know that you are still working on the details and reassure them that when you have an answer they will be the first to know.  Be clear that this is not their fault and that they are not responsible for trying to make things better between you. This is a message that may need to be repeated as a child comes to terms with your separation.

How is my child likely to react?

Your child’s feelings about your divorce or separation will be different from your own.  It is vital therefore that you are able to keep your feelings about splitting up separate from your child’s feelings.  Your child will experience a wide range of emotions, some predictable and some not.  It is important that you pay attention not just to words, but their actions and behaviour for hints as to what they may truly be feeling.

What sort of emotions will they experience?

The idea that their life is changing can often encourage reluctance or denial in a child; this may lead to avoidance of the subject or a refusal to talk about it. A child may become angry and test boundaries or break rules. A child may try and encourage reconciliation by promising to behave well or create events where they hope their parents will meet.  It is not unusual for a child to suffer from depression which could lead to lack of motivation, difficulty sleeping or loss of appetite. 

How can I help my child?

If your child is seeking reassurance, encourage questions and answer as age-appropriately and honestly as you can.  Let your child know that it is ok to be upset, feel sad, angry or hurt and be clear with them what is appropriate behaviour and what is not.  Try to keep life predictable and consistent for you and your child and try and maintain regular activities as much as possible.  Make sure that you and your child are fed and rested and have access to supportive friends and family so that you and your child feel well. 

Encourage your child to talk about how they are feeling, if not to you to family or friends or a supportive adult. 

Are there are any resources that can help?

Talk to us as your family solicitors about being put in touch with a Family Consultant who will help you and your ex-partner manage parenting moving forward, and can also help your child adjust to the new situation with individual and family sessions.

Are there any online resources I can have a look at?

There are a wide variety available; here is a list of some:-

So where do we go from here?

Consider our Talking Works service which offers a discussive approach to deal with matters arising from separation, be it co-parenting, children arrangements or division of assets etc.  You and your ex-partner are co-parents for life and how you manage and maintain your relationship will have a real impact on your child moving forward.

What should I do next?

For legal advice on family law, including separating and supporting children at this time, contact Prettys in Chelmsford and Ipswich. You can call 01473 232121 to speak to the Family Team, request a call back here or click here to send us an email.

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