New polling carried out on behalf of Family Law Organisation Resolution has found that around 82% of children and young people with experience of parental separation or divorce would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy, rather than stay together.
Asked what advice they would give divorcing parents, one young person said, “Don’t stay together for a child’s sake, better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms”; while another suggests children “will certainly be very upset at the time but will often realise, later on, that it was for the best.”
When asked what they’d most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31% of young people said they would have liked their parents not to be horrible about each other to them, and 30% said they would have liked their parents to understand what it felt like to be in the middle of the process.
Speaking about the new findings, Jo Edwards, chair of Resolution, said:
“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future are what’s most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself. This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process,and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.
“We should be supporting parents to choose an out of court divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative practice. This will help parents to maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are, and remain, the central focus.”
Relate counsellor, Denise Knowles said:
“Evidence suggests that it’s parental conflict which has the most damaging effect on children and we see this played out in the counselling room every day.
“Of course, children usually find their parents’ separation extremely upsetting but as this research demonstrates, eventually many come to terms with the situation and adjust to changes in family life. There are plenty of steps that separating parents can take to ensure they reduce the negative impact on their children such as working to avoid constant arguing or speaking badly of the other parent in front of the kids.
“Parents can also involve their children by providing age appropriate and relevant information about the divorce or separation and what it means for them. Trying to understand children’s needs will make them feel secure and loved during this difficult time. Separating parents could also consider accessing support such as individual counselling, couples counselling, family counselling and mediation. ”
The survey results support the main advice Resolution shares in its Parenting Charter, which sets out what children should be able to expect from their parents during a divorce or separation.
These include children’s rights to:
- be at the centre of any decisions made about their lives
- feel and be loved and cared for by both parents
- know and have contact with both sides of their families, including any siblings who may not live with them, as long as they are safe
- a childhood, including freedom from the pressures of adult concerns such as financial worries
At a special event with MPs and Peers in Parliament, Resolution will be calling for the Government to share the Charter with all divorcing parents. The event will also see the launch of an online advice guide at www.resolution.org.uk/divorceandparenting developed by Resolution to help divorcing parents manage their relationship with their children and with each other during separation.