In this article we want to offer a more realistic vision of what a marital separation can generate in the eyes of the children and offer four guidelines with which you can face this new situation and help them to understand it and to have as positive an experience of the separation as possible.
Separation is a reality that we live with, it is part of our society and in our hands is the possibility of generating satisfactory solutions to the problems that may arise for our children. It is vital to bear in mind the damage that can be caused if these guidelines are not followed.
Separation from parents: a traumatic experience for children
When we ask ourselves what we want for our children, most parents respond “that they be well and happy”. Given this imperative desire to seek and generate happiness and welfare of children, we must bear in mind that it depends on “parents” that children are well and happy after the separation.
It is obvious that we do not know what will happen, but it is clear that the adaptation to the new family situation will be better, less traumatic and easier for the sons and daughters of parents who, after the separation, are able to share the decisions about the children and cooperate for their well-being.
What are the most difficult aspects of separation for a child?
The aspects that generate more tension in a child when there is a separation are the following:
- That one of the parents blames the child for the separation.
- That there would be any kind of abuse at home, with or without the children.
- Let the relatives say bad things about the parents.
- That aspects of it are verbalized against the other parent.
- That children have to give in and give up things they like.
- That some parent is sad or unhappy about the separation.
- That questions are generated by the mother or father about the other parent’s private life.
- Comments from others in the environment in a negative way towards the parents.
All these aspects generate a great deal of pressure on the children and this tension can lead to difficulties in adapting and short-term symptoms such as depression, anxiety, developmental regressions, anger, aggression, school difficulties… It is also not strange that the child can suffer a drop in self-esteem and self-confidence.
The reactions that children have after the separation are different and diverse, and this indicates that it depends on how the process of separation is carried out by the parents and the relationship that is established between them, will determine and condition the adaptation of the children.
Four general guidelines on the process of separation to care for our children
First of all, it should be clarified that the general indicators in each case are variable and should be adjusted based on the child’s age and marital status . The guidelines that we propose are good for children and therefore it should be advisable to make an effort to carry them out, and in this way help to improve the adaptation and process of the children in the separation.
1. Communicate the decision of separation to the children
An agreement has to be reached between the parents on how it is going to be communicated and with which words it is going to be said, as well as both have to be present and agree on the decision that has been taken , so that when transmitting this information to the children it is correct and coherent with what is going to be done. It must be made clear that each of the spouses will live in a different house, that it is not their fault, that sometimes older people get angry and cannot be together and it is better to live separately. You must assure them that they will not lose you, that you are their father and mother and that you will continue to love them, be with them and continue to care for them as always.
It should be made clear that they will be able to continue with the same activities they usually do, that the two houses will be their home, that their toys can be in one house or the other without inconvenience…
2. Make it clear that the children are not to blame
It should be made clear that separation is a decision that adults have made and that it has nothing to do with them and that they are not to blame, nor are they responsible for the decision to separate. It must be emphasized that they will continue to be your mom and dad even though they do not live in the same house, and that this decision of theirs is to make you all happier and to expose that the changes in their lives will be positive (“we will stop fighting and arguing”, “we will be less sad”, “more calm”…).
They should be asked what they think about it, asked if they have any doubts or concerns about this change, and left open to their emotional expression. In short, we should let them ask us when they have any doubts or fears . This is basic to be able to generate good communication and will help the children to adapt in a natural and less traumatic way.
3. Communicate how the visits will be carried out
In this case the situations can be very diverse and different depending on the age of the child and the process followed in the separation, but the better the communication and agreement between the parents, the better the experience they will be able to transmit to their children .
It is important in this section to be clear about the aspects that generate tension in children, so that I can be clear about what I want for my child and how I as a parent contribute to the adaptation and reduction of the tension that separation generates in them.
4. Minimize the impact that we as adults can generate on our children
In this section we refer to having control and acceptance that the situation of adults has changed , but that our children still have a father and a mother and that we should avoid certain negative comments, work on our anger or frustration with a person who can guide and help us manage it and not project it onto them, not generate the well-known “loyalty conflicts”, because at the end of the day they love you both and do not want to hurt you.
Learn more: “Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP): a form of child abuse”
Some conclusions and nuances
These are some of the aspects that we want to leave you so that you can take into account in case you are immersed in this process of separation and even if you have already carried it out, it is important that you keep in mind these guidelines or points.
Finally, it should be noted that the obligation of parents to achieve the well-being of their children is of vital importance . If the child shows signs of symptoms that may be harming some facet of his or her life, we should put ourselves in the hands of a specialist in child psychiatry and psychology in order to make an adequate evaluation and treatment. In addition, educational psychologists will meet with parents to offer and facilitate guidelines and strategies that they can put into place to minimize the impact on their children.