Marital separation can be a stressful and emotionally difficult time for families, with the focus often on children and how they might cope. Seeing a psychologist during this time, can help parents and children manage the transition, with practical advice and information to help parents build a secure base for your children. How children and adolescents react to their parents’ separation will differ with age, thought to be due to cognitive development and maturity, as older children become more capable of understanding the reasons and implications of a marital separation.
To break it down into simple points, all children need after parental separation is:
- Protection from parental conflict.
- A secure emotional base.
- Help to solve their problems.
- Firm and reasonable limits to be safely independent.
- A trusted parent when they need to be dependent.
- Encouragement to learn.
- Routines that help them feel in control.
- Protection from trauma.
- Protection from parental stress about ongoing unresolved issues with ex-partners.
To break down needs further into age groups:
- Parents who are tuned into their needs
- A lot of time with parents who nurture them
- Parents who play with them, listen carefully to their efforts to communicate, keep their world safe.
- Visiting schedules that don’t cause too much change.
- Plenty of time with their parents to know that they’re still there for them.
- Reassurance that they will see the absent parent again.
- Familiar rituals to help make the transition between parents.
Young primary school-aged children need:
- Help to see that they’re not to blame for the separation.
- Parents who stay interested and in touch with their school, activities and friends.
- Encouragement to talk about their feelings.
- Reassurance that the absent parent still loves them.
- Clear boundaries to help them manage behaviour that may be a reaction to the separation.
- Help during transitions between parents.
Older primary school-aged children need:
- Reminder that it is not their responsibility to look after their parents’ well-being.
- Routines that are predictable, and consistent rules and expectations.
- Parents who can make room for thinking about their children’s needs apart from their own.
- Permission to love the other parent.
- Parents who listen carefully to how they feel about things.
- Daily stress in their life kept as low as possible.
- Parents to be available daily to listen and give support.
- Predictable routines, consistent rules and expectations.
- Parents who are able to supervise them, and take a real interest in their lives.
- Time and space to work out their own reactions to their parents’ separation.
- Flexibility in arrangements to allow them to participate in normal adolescent social activities and school events.
If you or your family need support during a separation or are experiencing marriage difficulties, seeing a psychologist can be a positive step forward. You can view our team of Clinical Psychologists here to see who is experienced in this field or call our friendly reception team to discuss who may be the right person to see: Newmarket (07) 3356 8255 or Morningside (07) 3395 8633.