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"Divorcing? Think of the children..."
Recent research reported in the press has revealed that divorced parents are often in denial with regard to the impact of the breakdown of the relationship upon their children.
Three quarters of parents surveyed thought that their children had ‘coped well’ with the situation, whilst only 18 percent of the children confirmed they were happy with the situation.
The survey showed that many parents failed to notice that their children were using alcohol and drugs and some children were even contemplating suicide.
Some parents did not even speak directly with their children regarding the divorce but, instead, broke the news to them via text message. Although it emerged that the most common way for the children to be informed of the divorce was for mothers to tell the children face to face. Despite this, 13 % of children had discovered their parents were to separate by overhearing arguments between them.
20% of children polled were of the opinion that they could not confide in either parent regarding the divorce as they were ‘too wrapped up in themselves’.
The survey was undertaken by Netmums, the parenting website, and the views of approximately 1,000 parents were taken into account and 100 children between eight and 18 years of age, all with divorced parents.
Of the children surveyed 5% had turned to alcohol, one in nine and purposefully self-harmed and a further 6% had contemplated suicide. Two of the children questioned had actually attempted suicide.
Approximately a third of children polled said they were devastated by the divorce and one in 12 believed it meant their parents ‘didn’t love them’ and had ‘let them down’.
Although it is clear that many of the children questioned struggled to deal with their emotions and feelings in respect of their parents divorce, few children felt they could discuss these issues with their parents.
Nearly 40% of the children polled disclosed that they did not show their feelings to their parents as they were fearful of causing further upset.
Many children felt obliged to take on a caring role in with regard to their parents during the breakdown of the relationship.
35% of children believed that the parents were attempting to get them to take sides in the dispute. Only 8% of parents admitted to this.
Only one in ten parents accepted their children had seen them fighting, although 31% of children stated they had witnessed arguments between their parents.
10% of parents were aware their children were hiding their emotions relating to the divorce, but less than 1% knew they were drinking alcohol, taking drugs or self-harming in an attempt to cope with this.
The parents and children involved in the survey wished there was more support available during a family separation. This included counselling and someone they could speak with outside of the family situation.
The founder of Netmums, Siobhan Freegard, stated that parents should be able to talk more with their children about their feelings.
‘Divorce may be a little word but it has a huge effect,’ she said. ‘It’s estimated that one in three children see their parents separate before the age of 16.
While experts acknowledge it is better to come from a broken family than live in one, this research shows not enough is being done to support youngsters through the break-up process.
Whilst divorce may be the best thing for many families, we have to ensure children are helped to understand the split isn’t their fault and that they are still loved.’
If you are experiencing difficulties in respect of the breakdown of your marriage or relationship, please do not hesitate to contact the Family Department at Johnson Astills for expert legal advice on 0116 255 4855.