Parents in denial about impact of separation on children
Parents in the process of divorce are often in denial about how their separation has impacted their children, according to a recent survey.
The report by parenting website Mumsnet polled 1,000 parents and 100 children separately to assess how well the children rationalised divorce as well as the parents’ perception of how their children coped with separation.
A conflicted picture emerged between the adults and children, with the children reporting that:
- Only 14% were able to be honest with their parents about how they felt
- Almost one third described themselves as ‘devastated’ by the divorce
- Two in five hid their feelings as they ‘didn’t want to upset’ their parents
- Their trauma was such that one in nine, or 11% of children, self-harmed
However the parents’ perspective is significantly different to that reported by the children, most notably in that almost four out of five parents (77% of those surveyed) thought their children coped well with their separation.
In addition, just 5% of parents recognised that their children blamed themselves for the separation, whilst one in ten parents thought their children were ‘relieved’ that they had left their partner.
The survey found the most common way to break the news about the divorce was for mothers to tell their children face-to-face.
However 13% of youngsters had heard the revelation during a row and 1% had been told about their parents’ separation by text.
Tom Powles, Partner and head of Barcan+Kirby’s family mediation service, said:
“A parental separation can have a profound effect on the children in the relationship, but this survey suggests that not enough is being done to support them through the break-up process.
There is plenty of research to suggest that cooperation between parents can lessen the impact of separation on your children. For this, you could consider family mediation – this emphasises the importance of communication and can help reduce conflict by focusing on the needs of your children during discussions.”