Life can be great. And love can be fantastic. But when things don’t work out…….it can be challenge. Especially if children are involved. Things can be complex, complicated or amiable and smooth. There are many factors involved, and often there are significant flow-on effects when children are involved. Some of the key issues for separating couples involve communication. These challenges can vary, depending on the parent’s personality, stress levels and coping ability. If the parents can continue to communicate and engage positively, then life can be smoother for their children.
Some of these challenges include:
- Managing emotions
- Who has the main care of the children
- The Parents ability to communicate and collaborate
- Each parents Parenting style
- Transitions between each parent
It’s a very big challenge when two people who had been loving, caring and intimate with each other separate. Whether this situation was determined by one person, or by the couple together can determine their future “levels of engagement”. Some couples can continue to engage well, remain friends and communicate appropriately. Other couples are constantly in conflict, which can make it challenging for each parent, as well as their children. There are some couples who need external support. Other couples need independent mediation and the facilitation of children moving between each parent. This can add in additional challenges for the children. However, it can provide some stability and safety when the parents are having difficulty engaging and communicating.
For some families, the challenge can be around parenting style and behaviours. If the parents are similar in their parenting style, then the children can be more settled. If the parents are different in their parenting style, but able to share the same routines, then there are less challenges for the children. It can be difficult times for children, when their parents have significantly different parenting styles. The most difficult times for children are when their parents are in conflict. We know that it’s important for children to have stability and consistent routines, so when there is disruption, instability or inconsistency, then this can impact on children in several ways.
Some families have challenges with transitions. So, when the children spend time with one parent, and then change to spend time with the other parent, then there are difficulties. There are so many variances on living arrangements. Some families have a regular week:week routine-where the child/children spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other parent. In some families, the children may reside full time with one parent, and spend weekends with the other parent. So this transition challenge involves the children and their emotions and behaviours. For example, some children enjoy spending equal time or weekend time with one parent, and there are no effects of the change on their functioning. For other children, there may be anxiety before they leave, ot in the days leading up to the changeover. For some children there are no problems with their behaviour, but then on their return to the original parent, there are emotional outbursts, or tantrums and challenging behaviours.
In some situations, some children experience difficulty managing their emotions. This may be the result of their experience of parenting challenges, communication difficulties or parent/child relationship issues. A child’s emotional response can be due to their own anxiety, grief or distress around the changes in their life and in their family. In my experience, many children benefit from child counselling. This involves the experience of a positive therapeutic relationship and a safe place. Many children learn more emotional awareness, or alternative strategies for managing their emotions. Children can theno have the ability to share their emotions and to debrief with an independent person. In counselling, children also can have the opportunity to work through their grief, and integrate and process their family situation better.
Another challenge for separated families involves Court Proceedings. This situation adds a whole different level of conflict and adversity into the family. The court process involves additional stressors and expenses and demands on everyone. Lawyers and Judges may need to be involved when parents are unable to resolve their differences, and the arguing continues, this can not resolve the situation. I encourage all couples to work together, to respect each other and to seek couple counselling and mediation —-before heading down the “Family Court” pathway.
When parents can respect each other, work together, communicate respectfully and engage with their children as the TOP PRIORITY, then everyone in the family system can function a lot better. Things go much smoother when parents collaborate, communicate, discuss and keep each other informed.
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