One of the main goals of Consensus Collaboration Scotland lawyers, financial specialists and family consultants is to help couples going through separation or divorce to put their children first.
With school being the place that a child spends more time than anywhere other than home, it can prove to be a crucial ally in helping them cope during and after a divorce, writes Rachel Hayward, a member of Consensus Collaboration Scotland who is an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist.
It is not unusual for parents to over-estimate their children’s resilience and under-estimate the impact of their divorce on them. Yet, if not well managed, divorce can have a seriously negative effect on children, and at different stages in the process they may feel confused, angry, isolated, ashamed, anxious, insecure, guilty, depressed or sad. The impact on them now and in the future will very much be influenced by what you as parents and others involved in their life do and say (both to them and in their presence).
Working closely with your child’s school will help maintain their academic performance, involvement in extra-curricular activities, self-esteem and friendships.
• Let the school know that your circumstances have changed and what the new arrangements are. Keep them updated if anything changes.
• Tell teachers the facts (e.g. is it a temporary separation or a permanent divorce?) and explain the key messages you would like them to reinforce to your child (e.g. to reassure them that it is good to talk openly and that they are not alone. With some 10,000 divorces taking place in Scotland each year, they definitely are not alone).
• Ensure that guidance teachers share this information with form and subject teachers, if your child is at secondary school.
• Ask teachers to watch out for any signs of emotional impact, including changes in behaviour, and to let you know, so that these can be addressed promptly.
• Attend parent evenings, get to know the teachers and discuss all aspects of your child’s development and progress with them.
• Ask if there are any relevant support groups, either within the school or externally. Sharing with other children going through the same process is likely to be beneficial for them.
Although you are no longer a couple, you should continue to work together as parents, alongside the school, because the wellbeing of your child will depend on your ability to collaborate in their best interests.
If you are considering a separation or divorce and have children, please contact us for further advice on how to put them first. You can find a Consensus Collaboration Scotland professional here.
Another excellent resource for young people whose parents are separating or divorcing is Voices in the Middle, with all the content on the website produced by young people themselves.