• Don't let your child be another 'child from a broken home' statistic - Gemma Burden considers recent survey results

    10.04.15

    For most parents going through a separation, one of their main concerns will be their children – wanting their children to be ok, not wanting them to suffer.  Children can cope very well with change and many children who experience parental separation are able to get on with their lives relatively unscathed.  What children struggle to cope with however is the parental conflict - it is this that they find difficult. 

    It is with the above in mind that we provide information from a recent Resolution survey of 14 – 22 year olds who were asked how parental break up has affected them.  The survey results are food for thought, but we do not want parents to assume that their child has to have the same experiences as the children surveyed.  Parents are in control of how they manage their separation, and whilst the survey results are concerning and alarm bells will ring, they ought to be used by parents as fuel for a desire to work together with the other parent and manage their separation in a way that minimises conflict.  We urge parents to take on board the findings, not in a way that makes them feel bad about themselves or what the family are going through, but instead to take a stance and say ‘that is not going to be how it works out for my child – my child does not need to be one of these statistics’.

    So, some of the key findings from the survey are summarised below.

    Education

    • 1 in 5 did not get the exam results they had been hoping for
    • 65% said that their GSCE exam results were affected
    • 44% said that their A level results suffered
    • 15% said they had to move schools as a result of the separation which may have had a knock on effect on exam results
    • 11% found themselves getting into more trouble at school, college or university
    • 24% struggled to complete homework or assignments
    • 12% admitted skipping lessons

    Health

    • 14% said they started drinking alcohol, or drinking more alcohol than previously
    • 28% said that they started eating more, or less than previously
    • 13% admitted to experimenting or thinking about experimenting with drugs as a result of their parent’s break up

    Social Media

    • 23% found out on social media that their parent had a new partner
    • 20% have been upset or embarrassed by their parent posting something about the separation on social media

    Grandparents

    • 19% completely lost contact with one or more grandparent

    Pressure from Parents

    • 32% said that one parent tried to turn them against the other
    • 27% said that their parents tried to involve them in their dispute

    Of all these statistics, the latter is the one which seem to get the most mention in our mediation rooms, with each parent accusing the other of causing the child to be caught in the middle.  It is also the one thing that almost all children that we see for Direct Child Consultation tend to confide in us about.  Of all the things that they could wish for (apart from the latest X box!), they want Mum and Dad to be nice to each other – wise words in the midst of an emotion filled battleground.

    In mediation we encourage parents not to dwell on the past.  No amount of debate can change what has gone before.  In the words of Edward de Bono: ‘You can analyse the past, but you need to design the future’.  We encourage parents to focus on what family life would be like if they did get on and communicate in a way that were respectful of each other’s role as parent.  We try and keep the focus on what the parents are doing well in terms of managing the separation, and encourage more of the same.  We explore what could be done better, setting realistic ground rules to achieve those ideal goals on both sides.  Most importantly we focus the mind on what a difference those changes would make for the child concerned.  Parents (whether separated or not) can disagree over all manner of things: bedtime routines; homework; new partners; dates and times for handover.  But whatever the dynamic they rarely disagree over the most important issue of all – that they love their child and want what is best for them.

    If you are interested in how mediation can help please contact us via our website: www.laceysmediation.co.uk. We can offer free initial appointments in Bournemouth, Poole or Southampton.  We can also undertake assessments for legal aid for free mediation.  We can also discuss the option of Direct Child Consultation.

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