Family Mediation Week - Emily Morris - the child's perspective

3 Top Tips for Separating Parents – from someone speaking from experience

FamilyMediationWeekEmily gives her perspective on her parents' divorce and how she recommends a child centred approach from others.

Originally published here http://www.familymediationweek.org.uk/category/blog/

Emily Morris 23 is a Fixer. She is also in her final year of her law degree at The University of York.

Emily’s parents are divorced. This process began whilst Emily was an A-Level student living at home. Emily found little information to support herself and her sisters. With the support of FixersUK, Emily wrote a booklet “Its not the end – Divorce support for young people” to give others the support she wished she’d had.

Statistics around young people are depressing. The children of divorced parents are more likely to do badly at school or commit crime. Emily believes that society doesn’t talk about the effects of divorce on children and that with appropriate support, 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.

Here is Emily’s blog:

9th April 2012 was the day my parents decided to separate. The date of their separation will always stay with me as my life rapidly changed after. Decisions such as ‘What shall we have for dinner tonight?’ suddenly changed to decisions concerning whether my sisters and me will still be able to live together. This dramatic turn of events had several repercussions because I became so heavily focused on my one single goal to reach university that I ignored events whereas my other two younger sisters were worried and distressed

Here are my 3 top tips for divorcing parents:

    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 at 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 your ex-partner because this will make your children resent you.

    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

    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.

As for me, 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.  

It’s too late for my family to discover whether Family Mediation would have worked and made my parents’ divorce less hostile. Try a session of Family Mediation and see if it works for your family and opens up lines of communication.

Emily Morris

 

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