5 Top Tips for Divorcing Parents
(a message from a teenager)
Emily Morris 21 is a Fixer. She is also a law student at York University, working towards becoming a corporate lawyer. But Emily Morris isn’t just interested in a high flying well paid legal career. Emily really cares about young people, which led her to become involved in Fixers. Emily’s parents are divorced. This process began whilst Emily was an A-level student living at home. It was tough. Emily began search Google for support to help her cope and found there was nothing so, with the support of fixers, Emily wrote a booklet “Its not the end – Divorce support for young people” to give others the support she wished she’d had.
Emily found that the statisics around young people were depressing.
The children of divorced parents are more likely to do badly at school or commit crime.
Emily doesn’t believe that this is inevitable, and with forward thinking parents, children can manage their parents divorce.
In case you’re wondering, Emily achieved 4 A-levels including an A*in Psychology whilst her parents were going through divorce.
Emily kindly agreed to write a blog for Your Family First highlighting what she feels are the things that parents need to consider when they are divorcing:
My parents announced they were separating in 2012 and they were not officially divorced until 2014.
Here are my 5 top tips for divorcing parents:
1. Don’t involve your children in the divorce – they are not part of your marriage
In April 2012, my parents announced they were going to separate however this was a rather acrimonious decision. Unfortunately, circumstances meant I was unable to live at home and as a result, I lived between friend’s houses for two months. I was legally homeless whilst working 16 hours the weekend and studying for my A Levels. Whilst this was a challenge, I learnt many skills, such as adaptability, which will benefit me greatly in the future. I have always maintained that I am simply a product of the marriage and not a part of the marriage. Divorce can be a tricky process for the family however you should never directly involve your children in the divorce. Your children are not a part of your marriage and therefore should not be a part of your divorce.
Your children are not a part of your marriage
You may directly involve the children without realising, such as asking your children to live at your house rather than their other parent’s house. Whilst it is normal for you to want your children to live with you, it is important that you recognise that when you do this, you can create internal conflict for your children who love and want to please both of you. This can have a significant negative impact on your children and your relationship with them. Furthermore, you should never make negative statements about you ex-partner because this will make your children resent you.
2. Listen to your children – it’s not all about you!
During the divorce, my parents became understandably preoccupied with the divorce and their settlement. I am not saying they neglected their children on purpose but they failed to take into account our wellbeing. At home, my mother would talk (nonstop!) about the divorce and failed to ask about us. In one instance, this resulted in me and my other sister having a full-blown argument with my mother because we had just had enough of constantly hearing about the divorce.
You should never ask your children questions about your ex-partner. remember, that person is their parent! You should allow your children to express any concerns they have about the divorce on their own accord, but ensure you do not use these concerns to find out any information about your ex-partner. When the children are expressing their concerns, you should attempt to calm their worries and make them understand that they remain first priority. This makes them feel comfortable and ensure they can come to you with any concerns without feeling they are bothering you. Do not ever forget that your children are your first priority rather than your divorce settlement. Your children will only be happy if you are happy. Your children are individuals with their own thoughts and feelings.
Do not ever forget that your children are your first priority rather than your divorce settlement
3. Ask your children what they want
In December 2012, it was becoming increasingly evident that my mother was suffering from depression. Later that month, my mother left my sisters and me on our own for a month to recuperate. My father decided to then get involved and ordered my sister around to his house every night after school. My younger sister was not happy at being forced and this resulted in yet another argument.
If your children are not speaking about the divorce, you should ask them if they are okay and if they have any concerns. If you are worried about your children not speaking about the divorce, you could ask them if they want to speak to someone outside of the family, such as the GP.
When making decisions about contact arrangements, you should ask your children what they want (in an age appropriate way) and ensure they feel involved if they want to be because this will help them feel they are your priority in the divorce.
4. Provide for your children
During the divorce settlement, we lived at our mother’s house. My mother does not have an extremely well-paid job and she often struggled for money. She would often cry and still does struggle for money sometimes. My father did not offer straight away to contribute money towards my younger sister (she was under 18) because he resented the fact that my younger sister lived with my mother.
It is important that you provide for your children so their health and happiness does not suffer. They are your responsibility even if they do not live with you. If you fail to help provide for your children because they live with your ex-partner, you are using your children as a weapon. Your children are their own individuals with their own opinions and they will resent you for not helping provide for them. If your ex-partner claims they do not want your help, you can always provide your children with an allowance so it is clear that you are providing for your children. If you cannot afford to provide for your children, there are other options such as allowing the child to stay with you every weekend.
5. Look after yourself
During the divorce, my mother and father became increasingly agitated and preoccupied with the divorce settlement. This affected them both negatively because this caused significant mental distress to my mother. My father became angry as a result of the divorce.
What ever happens in your divorce, you should always look after yourself. You should always speak to someone (other than your children) about the divorce or take up a hobby to avoid constantly thinking about the divorce. My mother has taken up dancing classes whilst my father has taken up marital arts. It’s simple but it works. As long as you look after yourself, your children will remain happy and comfortable.
As long as you look after yourself, your children will remain happy and comfortable.
During the divorce process, you are likely to become increasingly preoccupied with the settlement. It is important that you still look after yourself, including your physical and mental health. If you do not look after yourself, your children will recognise this and they will become worried. Your children are likely to not speak to you about their concerns because they know this will worry you. You should avoid drinking after receiving news related to the divorce because you can become reliant on this.
You should take up a physical activity to release some energy or anger you may feel as a result.
Above all, look after yourself and ensure that your health and happiness remain a priority.
If you feel any different or need to speak to someone, go and see your GP.
As for me, I’m currently in my second year at The University of York reading Law.
I’m finally at peace with what’s happened and I’m very excited to see what the future hold for me.
You should seek advice about the divorce and discover what options are best for you and your family. Knowledge is power.
Watch the video below to hear Emily talk about her experience of divorce and working with Fixers.
Emma Heptonstall is a Family Mediator at York Family First in York UK. She can be contacted on 01904 697760 or by email email@example.com