Explaining to Children

Often during a separation, parents say very little to the children about the current situation because they are trying to protect them and not cause unnecessary upset. Other parents may have shared a little too much with their children. It is challenging to find the right balance. Family Mediation can help you plan how and what to tell them. Here are some tips on what children usually want to know about.

From quite a young age, children can sense something is wrong and if one parent leaves the home without explanation of any kind, it can be traumatic for children. Children often feel powerless and confused if there has been no information given to them about what is happening. Telling them what is happening without apportioning blame can be difficult, but helps them to understand. This also encourages them to know it’s okay to talk about it and ask questions.

Children need to know it is not their fault that their parents are no longer together. This is a common feeling that children have and sometimes they will behave in ways they think will encourage the missing parent to return.

Explaining to children that their parents no longer love each other can cause confusion in young children because they might interpret this as a danger that a parent could suddenly stop loving them too. This is because they have not yet understood the difference in the relationship between adult parents and the relationship between parent and child. It is important at this stage for children to be told by both parents that they will always love them.

Talking about this helps children to understand that it is normal to feel insecure and they can ask questions or talk about how they are feeling. If they feel listened to, they will adjust more easily.

There are many things children don’t need to know about and find difficult to hear. These can include:-

  • Intimate details of adult behaviour, particularly sexual behavior
  • What either parent’s Solicitor or the Court has said
  • How awful their other parent is
  • Blaming or hurtful language about the other parent or members of their family
  • Messages they are expected to carry to the other parent

It is very easy to fall into this trap, particularly when you feel you have been hurt badly by the other person, but this is the time to imagine what it might be like to see and hear this through your child’s eyes and ears. Remember, children will make their own judgments about their parents’ behaviour as they grow older. If you need to offload or talk to someone for support, it is advisable you find another adult or professional to help.

Children need to know their parents are in charge even if they now live in separate houses. It’s okay to have different rules in different houses as long as one doesn’t undermine the other or affect the health and well-being of the child. As long as they know what to expect, children can adjust to the differences.

All National Family Mediation providers offer an additional session(s) for children (usually involving siblings together) which runs alongside the family mediation process. This is called <Direct Consultation with Children LINK>. We offer children an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them post separation. Parents will only be told what children wish them to hear (with the important exception to confidentiality in relation to risk of harm).

National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

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