How to inspire and support children through parent separation and divorce
by family solicitor and author Helen Victoria Bishop
“Jack is feeling quite sad and alone as he sits in his bedroom considering the situation between his mummy and daddy. He like many children in a break up situation feels that this might all be his fault. Jack speaks to his loyal friend “Black Cat” who is able in his magical way to talk Jack through his concerns and worries and provide him with some practical advice on how to make life a little easier, all of which makes Jack feel more confident and reassured.”
“Jack” is an illustrated book for children aged 4-11 to help them deal with the issues that they frequently experience as part of family break up.
I have practised Family Law since 1999 and wrote “Jack” as I became frustrated as to the lack of literature available to help children deal with the issues that they face when their parents separate.
Approximately 25 percent of children will at some point experience separation and the effects on them if it is not dealt with correctly, can be very damaging and potentially last long into adulthood.
It is vital that parents talk to their children right from the start of a family break up and allow children to voice their concerns and anxieties as this will help the child cope with the enormous change that they face.
My aim with the book is that children can relate to “Jack” and his feelings and by reading the book it will encourage them to engage in conversation with parents, teachers or guardians about their feelings.
Every child will deal with separation in a different way and sometimes a tangible object such as a book like “Jack” can be a useful aide to help a child cope and understand.
For parents there are a few key things to consider when telling a child for the first time about a separation:
- If possible try to tell the child or children with both parents together in a calm and secure environment
- Keep the language simple and remove blame. Children need to be reassured that it is not their fault and they do not need to know the complex issues that are the core to the separation
- Emphasise that mummy and daddy still love them and always will
- Let them know as soon as possible what the arrangements will be, as this will help with the transition
- Listen to your children and let them talk through their worries and concerns.
Helen Victoria Bishop is a family Solicitor and author and has practised family law since qualifying in 1999. In 2010 she took a break from practice to enable her to spend more time with her family and focus on writing children’s literature to help children deal with the issues of separation and divorce.