For families dealing with cases of domestic violence, divorce and separation, it is not surprising to find that children can sometimes be left in the middle. Perhaps more so than ever, with the enforced lockdown children are more likely to be exposed to and affected by unfamiliar or unsettling situations. It is important for children in these situations to be able to feel that they can express their emotions. It is the responsibility of parents and carers to encourage healthy expression of feeling and open communication about their wellbeing, as they themselves may not know how to deal with their feelings or how to process events at home.
Sometimes it’s okay to be their friend
It is not uncommon for children’s behaviour to change in response to the changing and uncertain situation around them. If you are currently going through a divorce or separation, it may be difficult for a child to come to terms with both the transitional period and the prospect of a future and family unit that looks different to what they have known. By giving your children the opportunity to sit down and talk, simply asking how they feel or asking about their day at school can increase the chances of them opening up. Keeping those lines of communication open is positive for the mental health and reassurance of both parent and child.
Providing such reassurance can relieve stress and tension within a household. If parents work constructively to collaborate, compromise and possible reach an agreement, this will provide a positive framework for your child to grow accustomed to and adapt positively to the change.
Seeking help if you are facing problems in the relationship
Working collaboratively, however, is not always the reality for some families experiencing relationship breakdown. If you find you and your partner disagreeing more often, there are many options to consider. Counselling may help you tackle the causes of the issues of the relationship early on and prevent a breakdown. Should the relationship breakdown further, mediation can help negotiate and focus on matters such as children arrangements. This is where listening to your children will also help ease this unfamiliar transition in their lives, it will also attempt to work things out that could lead to better family related decisions and, most importantly, it will also frame any discussions in the consideration of your child’s best interests.
There are a number of accredited family mediators who specialise in communicating with children 10 years and above in situations such as these. We have linked to some helpful resources below.