What are the feelings of children following a divorce or separation?
As opposed to parents, children are affected differently by separation and divorce. Children might have an array of feelings consisting of anxiety, loneliness, anger, sadness and even feelings of bewilderment. Some might even think that they played a part in bringing the difficulties that their parents might be going through currently. Trying to take away this feeling may take some time and dedication from both parents. In addition, children might not be sure whether the separation of the parents is temporary or permanent and if it is temporary how long it will take. This can be rather confusing and especially for the younger kids who may hold on to probably unrealistic notions that the parents will eventually get back together and things go back to the way that they were formerly.
With this in mind, they might try to protect their parents by keeping their true feelings from them and only telling each parent what they think they need to hear. Most of the time, what a child may tell the father may be completely different from what he/she tells the mum. Taking all this into consideration, it is suddenly does not seem uncommon for parents to underestimate the emotional roller coasters that children go through during these times.
How do you put the needs of your children first?
With new piece of information, despite the fact that you may not be living together anymore, you should bear in mind that you will need each other in the future to play the parental role. Regardless of your feelings towards each other, you should try as much as possible to work with each other as the well-being of your child, depends on it. So the question is, how do you put the interests of your children first?
Well, the very first responsibility that you have is to ensure that you minimize any form of conflict towards the other parent and support the relationship to the best of your ability. This is because as much as you might not want to see, the other parent, the children do not share your sentiments an actually do need to see the other parent as often.
It often helps if you could sit down with your spouse and work out a parenting plan that will include the boundaries, timings and such like factors. This is a very important tool that will not only help you to minimize conflict but will also ensure that each parent spends sufficient time with the children and caters for their needs as you will discuss.
What if you cannot agree on the terms regarding your children?
Well, in any kind of separation between parents, the working out arrangements with regards to the children can and is an emotionally charged process and can be really difficult to reach any kind of agreement, especially in the early stages when the wounds are still open and really sore. However, with time as the emotions settle down and a friendly/ civil parenting relationship is established, the practicalities concerning the child care can be dealt with and a conclusion and agreement reached.
However, if still during this time you do not seem to be making any considerable step towards agreement, then you should consider the collaborative law as well as mediation in which a third party will come in to help both of you (parents) reach an agreement without favouring any sides.
Counselling can also do the trick. You could choose to be in different sessions or attend together. It is particularly helpful as talking out loud and sharing the problems can help you see things more clearly as well as make talking to your spouse easier. Attending family therapy is also an option that you could leave open.
However, while you could go to court and have the matter sorted, going to seek the courts intervention should be the very last option that you consider after trying the others.
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So what exactly is parental responsibility?
Well, to put it plainly, parental responsibility is what gives you the parent, the right to make certain important decisions that affect the life of your children such as the school they attend, their religion and other such decisions.
For the mothers, the parental responsibility is straight forward. However, if a child is adopted, the biological mother stands to lose her parental responsibility.
For fathers on the other hand, as you may guess, is not as direct. If the two of you were married during the birth the child, then the father in such a situation has parental responsibility. However, if you were not legally married, during the child’s birth, then the date of birth of the child is taken into consideration. If he/she was born after December 1 2003, and on the child’s birth certificate the father was named, then he will take the responsibility. However, if the delivery was before this date, then only the mother has parental responsibility, automatically.
However, a father can get parental responsibility in the following situations:-
• Marrying the child’s mother
• Applying a parental responsibility order to the courts
• Agreeing on the parental responsibility with the child’s other following the set procedures
• By applying and acquiring an order of residence
• Appointment to be the child’s caretaker or guardian
What to do afterwards
In order to help your child/ children to transition and get through this difficult tie with the lowest levels of pain and anxiety, the following are the do’s and don’ts.
• Offer the children lots of reassurance as you can
• Explain in simple and understandable ways what exactly is going on
• Ensue that the family rules and routines that had been set remain even after the separation
• Be very keen to notice their feeling and receptive to any questions that they may have
• Encourage and gentle push them towards building a relationship with both of you
• Assure them that you, the parents, are fully capable of dealing with any problems that you might have.
• Encourage them to open up to you concerning their feelings
• Do any act that will crash the child’s relationship with the other parent
• Ask for advice from the older kids
• Ignore questions they might have or feelings
• Assume that since they look calm on the outside that they are taking the whole situation great
• Ever bring in the children into the battle field
• Criticize the other parent
In all this, you should bear in mind that there is no perfect parent. As a result, there is no problem in asking for advice and support