If you have children

If you have childrenIf you have children, no doubt they are your first priority.  While separation and divorce is hard on children, it is not the separation itself that causes damage, but rather conflict between parents and being made to feel divided loyalty between them.

Protecting your children:

The impact of separation can be greatly minimized by staying aware of how your actions, body language and words might affect your children. Always speak respectfully of your spouse, and promote his or her relationship with your former partner, regardless of the challenges you may be facing at the moment. Treat each other amicably or at least civilly. Avoid arguments and fights in front of the children. Keep adult issues between adults-discussed away from the children with the assistance of professionals when needed.

How a Family Professional can help:

Seek the early assistance of a Family Professional with experience in children and the separation and divorce process. The Family Professional can help you understand your children’s needs as they experience the separation process, having regard to their gender, age and stage.

Work with the Family Professional early to plan how and when you will tell the children about your separation. It’s usually best to tell the children together, not to tell them which of you initiated the separation or the details of why you are separating, and to provide them with age-appropriate information when they’re ready.

The Parenting Plan:

The Family Professional will help you and your spouse negotiate a Parenting Plan – a document that provides protocols for decision-making, scheduling in each home for regular and holiday times, sharing information and resolving children’s issues that arise in the future. The Family Professional may also see the children and bring their views and preferences into your decision making process.

If you have childrenA Parenting Plan is a living document that can be changed as the children get older and circumstances change. The Family Professional can be a resource to help in the future to navigate changes such as when a new partner comes on the scene or the children wishing to change scheduling arrangements or parents have different opinions about educational or health choices.

Be careful not to introduce a new partner to your children too early. Even if you have considered the possibility of separation for many years, your children will begin the grief process as soon as you separate. They need time, usually about a year, before they are ready to meet a new partner. Any person introduced to the children should be someone with whom you anticipate a long-standing relationship. And always let your former spouse know that you plan to introduce the children to your new partner in advance so that they can support and not be upset or surprised by your children telling them they’ve met your girlfriend or boyfriend. Taking these steps will ensure the children are supported to feel comfortable with your new partner. And doing so will also strengthen, rather than destabilize, your new relationship.