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Questioning Child

10 Ways to Understanding How Your Child May Feel During Separation

Whatever the circumstances, parental separation is hard on families and big changes must be made. Keeping their children at the centre of parenting and responding to the thoughts, feelings and questions a child may have, will help parents to help their child.

Research shows that children normally experience one or more of the following reactions to the separation of their parents:

  1. Loyalty conflict: Children often get caught in the middle.
  2. Does Mum or Dad love someone else?: Although Mum or Dad might not love each other, it is important to reassure the child that they love him/her.
  3. I don’t want to come over today: As they get older, children’s interests vary. They may not want to visit a parent and may just want to spend more time with their friends.
  4. Fantasies of responsibility and reconciliation:  Children may feel they are responsible for their parents’ separation. They may dream up plans to get their parents to reconcile.
  5. Why don’t you love Mum or Dad anymore?: It is not uncommon for children to ponder this question. Often children will blame the parent who they believe initiated the separation and view the other parent as a victim.
  6. If you do not come home, I will never speak to you again: The purpose of a statement like this is to make the parent feel guilty so that they will return home.
  7. Anger: Children between the ages of 8-16 years can experience intense anger. They can often be most angry with the parent they blame for separation, but they may express anger only towards the parent they view as the ‘safest’, usually the resident parent.
  8. What should I tell my friends?: If you want your child to share the situation with others, you must be able to do the same. Encourage your child to be honest about the situation.
  9. Why are you separating?: Children are more likely to ask this if they have not been given a clear explanation for the separation.
  10. Worry about the future: The child may worry about the future. This is more likely to occur where there is parental conflict around contact and maintenance. Parents need to listen to their child’s worries and talk honestly and openly with them about any concerns.

One Family’s  Family Communications –  Parenting When Separated course starts in May 2019 please see details here.  One Family also offer a range of services to parents sharing parenting or parenting alone after separation. You can find out about them here. If you need support, information or advice, contact our lo-call askonefamilyhelpline on 1890 66 22 12 / support@onefamily.ie.

Parenting | How might your child react to parental separation?

breakup-908714_1280Whatever the circumstances, parental separation is hard on families and big changes must be made. Keeping children at the centre of parenting and responding to their thoughts, feelings and questions, will help you to help them during this difficult time.

Research shows that children normally experience one or more of the following reactions to the separation of their parents:

  1. Children often get caught in the middle; loyalty to one parent can cause conflict.
  2. “Does mum or dad love someone else?”. Although mum or dad might not love each other anymore, it is important to reassure your child that you both continue to love him/her.
  3. “I don’t want to come over today”. As children get older their interests change. They may not want to visit a parent and may just want to spend more time with their friends.
  4. “Is it my fault?”. Children may feel they are responsible for the separation. They may dream up plans to get you and your ex-partner to reconcile.
  5. “Why don’t you love each other anymore?”. It is not uncommon for children to ponder this question. Often children will blame the parent who they believe initiated the separation and view the other parent as a victim.
  6. When a child makes threats such as “If you do not come home, I will never speak to you again”, the purpose of this is to make the parent feel guilty so that they will return home.
  7. Children between the ages of 8-16 years can experience intense anger. They can often be most angry with the parent they blame for separation, but they may express anger only towards the parent they view as the ‘safest’, usually the resident parent.
  8. “What should I tell my friends?”. If you want your child to share the situation with others, you must be able to do the same. Encourage your child to be honest about the situation.
  9. “Why are you separating?”. Children are more likely to ask this if they have not been given a clear explanation for the separation.
  10. The child may worry about the future. This is more likely to occur where there is parental conflict around contact and maintenance. As parents, you need to listen to your child’s worries and talk honestly and openly with them about their concerns.

One Family are looking for responses to the first ever National Shared Parenting Survey from parents who have separated and are sharing parenting. The data gathered will finally give a voice to parents and their children who are sharing parenting, which can inform appropriate policies and services in the future. Please take ten minutes to complete this anonymous survey. Take the survey here.

If you need support, information or advice, contact our lo-call askonefamily helpline on 1890 66 22 12.

This week’s Parenting Tips is adapted by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, from our Family Communications training programme.

 

Parenting | Children’s Books About Families

Finding the right books to support your child during a time of family transition, or to help answer questions that can be challenging, can be difficult.  One Family has compiled a list of children’s books which may help your child to better understand their unique family and all kinds of families.

This extensive list includes books suitable for children from the age of 3 to teenagers, with sections on Divorce and Separation; Family Types; Adoption and Fostering; Death and Bereavement; and Stepparents and Stepfamilies.

You can read or download it here.

askonefamily_200px Logo_Small_LRFor support or information on any of these topics, our askonefamily helpline is available on 1890 66 22 12 / 01 662 9212 or by email from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday.

 

Book Covers

In His Own Words | Dean’s Story – When My Parents Separated, Part 2

Boy on mountainDean contacted One Family because he wished to share his personal experience of when his parents separated. In the second of a series, this is Dean’s story in his own words. He is now 16 years old.

“But why? But what about? But how?” These questions are always synonymous with any major change in life. The thing is, your parents often don’t know the answers to the questions you’re asking. This is why they might appear dismissive and reluctant to answer you. By no means let this stop you from asking questions: you should ask, it affects your life as well. For many kids that go through this, it is often when they realise their parents are just people that they begin to understand. Your parents make mistakes, have disagreements, arguments, shout, yell and have emotions. Just like anybody else, just like you.

For a long time these questions haunted me, I just wanted clarity. As time went on, as things further developed, this need to know everything drifted away. You see, for me there was really only thing I wanted to know more than anything. “Were things okay?” That was all I wanted. I just wanted to know that no matter what the situation was, that things were okay, that people were happy.

One thing that I don’t share with many other people that have gone through this, is the feeling of guilt. I never felt as if the separation was a product of what I did, or didn’t do. I always on some level knew that it was to do with my parents’ own quarrels.

I did, however, feel the need to fix things. I think this is one of the most debilitating parts of the separation of two people you’re so close to. You just want to help, to return things back to “normal”.

The issue lies with that word, ‘normal’ … what is normal? It’s such a subjective word that it causes more harm than good.

Through all the difficulties, be it small or large, when I came to realise that ‘normal’ wasn’t exactly what’s best for me, my parents or my siblings, things got so much better. When we let go of that burden to fix things, and just concentrate on living the life we have now, things become brighter, better.

If I had to go through everything again to get to the point where I am now, where my family is now, I would do it in a heartbeat. And I think that’s what shows that a separation doesn’t always mean a destruction.

Life works out, always.

Part 1 of Dean’s story can be read here. Read Part 3 here.

Note: Stock image used.

In His Own Words | Dean’s Story – When My Parents Separated

SeparationDean contacted One Family because he wished to share his personal experience of when his parents separated. In the first of a series, this is Dean’s story in his own words. He is now 16 years old.

When people tend to bring up living in a house with separating parents, it always seems to be a rather saddening story; a tale of sorrow and anguish. Sometimes this can be true but for the majority of cases, mine included, it doesn’t live up to the tumultuous stories of the past.

Perhaps it was because the whole situation began when I was aged 12, but I don’t feel that the separation was detrimental. Of course there were times where it was difficult; where I didn’t understand what, when or why, but this just wasn’t common. I don’t really remember any specific events, no categorically haunting memories.

One of the main things I see children struggle with when they’re in this situation is picking a side. What we don’t realise is we shouldn’t have to pick a side, and we shouldn’t pick a side.

A lot of the time there are many things omitted when we receive the news of the separation from our parents. Whether this is done in an attempt to protect us, or it is a flawed system to save the opinions of both parents I don’t know, but it seems to be a common practice. One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is to admit to their children that they weren’t right, or things didn’t work out the way they’d hoped.

As people, we have a tendency to demonise and hate change, subsequently hating the thing or person who has brought it. Throughout my experience I found I likened the separation to things on a smaller scale, such as equating it to a fight between friends where a lot of the time you only hear one side of the story leaving more questions than answers, but in the end, it always is resolved. Call it a coping mechanism, a means to understand – whatever you wish – but it made things simpler for me, and that’s what I wanted. It truly is the complexity of things that leaves us bewildered, that leaves that feeling of betrayal of trust or loyalty in our stomach.

Read Part 2 of Dean’s story here.

Note: Stock image used.
Child Contact Centre

We’ve only had Divorce for 18 years – is that why we don’t deal with it well?

Press Release 

We’ve only had Divorce for 18 years –

is that why we don’t deal with it well?

(Dublin, Friday 27 February 2015) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating – reflects today on the 18 years since divorce legislation came into effect in Ireland on 27 February 1997. The passing of the Referendum on Divorce almost twenty years ago was a groundbreaking acknowledgment of the reality that families in Ireland exist in many forms and that marriage cannot always be forever despite best intentions.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “In 2013, Ireland had the lowest divorce rate in the EU at 0.6 per 1,000 of the population. We have the third lowest rate of divorce in the world despite fears voiced 18 years ago that the legalisation heralded the end of the family, while the rate of marriage and civil partnership is on the rise. The fact is that relationships do end, couples do separate. Sometimes they are parents too. What is important is that they are supported to separate well. Research shows that it is not family form that impacts on a child’s outcomes, but the quality of their relationships at home. Parental conflict has more adverse effects on children than parental separation.”

Karen continues: “With the right supports, parents can separate well, resolve conflict, manage finances, and ensure their children remain at the centre of parenting. No-one sets out to separate or divorce, especially as a parent, and it is often a very difficult time for all members of the family, with feelings of fear, anger or blame as a backdrop.  Service providers, the family law courts, and Government policy should be focussed on the provision of vital and affordable, services to support people to separate well, like One Family’s counselling, parent mentoring, and mediation services, which are still lacking in many areas around the country due to a lack of funding.”

“We know from working with parents going through separation and divorce that the process of obtaining a divorce is extremely costly and due to the law, requires an incredibly long time which can be destructive to families. The newly introduced Children and Family Relationships Bill will go some way to reforming family law courts but a lot more is needed,” Karen concludes.

People experiencing separation or divorce can call the askonefamily helpline on lo-call 1890 662 212 for information and support, or to find out more about One Family’s services for parents who are separating.  These include parent mentoring, mediated parenting plans, and programmes and workshops such as Impact of Parental Separation and Making Shared Parenting Work, details of which can be found here.

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About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those separating, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 2212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191