Children's Experiences of Separation

Separation and divorce are adult solutions to adult problems, but many children find themselves caught up in the resulting chaos.  Even if a child is able to understand the reasons behind it, a parental separation is likely to be resented.  Some distressed behaviour may be evident, either at the time of separation or frequently some months or even years later.  Children at any age may feel sad, confused, abandoned by a loved one, powerless and the victim of an adult decision, and above all angry.  Angry feelings may show in the form of aggressive and difficult, or depressed and withdrawn behaviour.  Parental conflict is likely to have an effect on a child’s self esteem and this may be evident at the time of separation as well as having longer term negative consequences.

While the immediate period after a separation or divorce is likely to be confusing and painful for both adults and children, the majority of children do not experience long term difficulties.  However, it is now widely accepted that, at the time of their parent’s separation or later, many children find it helpful to be able to talk to someone who is not part of the family.  If children can have their often sad, confused and angry feelings heard and accepted it is hoped that they will feel freer to continue with their main task in life – their development into a healthy adolescence and adulthood.

This is the reason that many family mediation services have set up direct services for children and young people.  The actual practice may differ from one service to another, but the aim of all services is to offer support for children and young people affected by a parental separation or divorce.  In particular this is to help them to:

•    Make sense of the changes in their lives
•    Understand that they are going through a process that many people share
•    Express the feelings that are common at this time
•    Develop a way of coping if they are caught in the middle of their parents conflict
•    Find ways of talking to their parents

Often, parents will agree to children and young people speaking with a mediator so that they can share their views, opinions, thoughts and feelings relating to the arrangements their parents are making following separation.

Contact your local mediation service to find out how mediation can help you.

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 also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.


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