Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 9th 2013 Contents B5
Monday, September 9, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Many marriages end in divorce,
but if you have children should you
explain to them the reasons why
the marriage did not work?
"I d like to know... I want to know
if there s maybe another reason, an
underlying problem or something,"
says 17-year-old Daisy Merriman.
Daisy s parents Claire and David
separated two years ago and Daisy
remembers the moment she was
told the news.
"Mum called me downstairs and
she sat me down in the living room
and Dad had been crying and so had
Mum," says Daisy, whose family
appears in the film Mum and Dad
are Splitting Up. "It must have been
quite a big thing for Dad to be crying
because he never cries about any-
"They both said that they d been
talking and they d decided to do a
trial separation. It was so much to
take in at that point and I just ran
up to my room and started crying."
At the time Daisy s mum Claire
did not go into detail about the rea-
sons why they decided to separate.
According to Claire, they decided
to separate because of a build-up of
arguing, not doing things together
and spending quite a lot of time
apart because David worked a lot -
reasons David also agrees with.
"Neither of us could compromise
enough to want to therefore then
sort it out," says Claire.
More than four million children
now live in separated families, which
equates to about a third of all chil-
dren in the UK, but if young people
would like to know the reasons why
their parents cannot live together
any more, should there be more
Paula Hall is a psychotherapist
who works with the relationship
support organisation Relate and has
written their guide, Help Your Chil-
dren Cope with Your Divorce. She
says it depends on the age of the
child, the reasons for the break-up
and their ability to understand it.
According to Hall, when a child
or young person asks why their par-
ents are separating, they are really
asking: "Is there a way you can stay
together?" As parents, if you have
decided the marriage is definitely
over, you do not want to get into a
debate about how to fix it, she sug-
gests. "Parents know their children
best so it depends on the child obvi-
ously, but... potentially you re open-
ing the door for lots of Why, why,
why, why, why? and setting a child
up to be your marriage guidance
counsellor," says Hall.
Hall says it can be very difficult
to get into a conversation about why
you are separating without placing
blame on the other person and there
are also clearly times when it would
be completely inappropriate to dis-
cuss the reasons for a break-up with
"Let s say you were living in a
sexless relationship. Talking about
your sex life to your seven-year-old
and trying to explain why that s not
OK for you is not going to be appro-
priate," says Hall. Family counselling
sessions are now widely available
and it can sometimes be helpful for
children and young people to have
an independent, objective, third party
to talk to.
Hall s advice to minimise the
impact of divorce on children and
young people is to have good contact
arrangements and co-parenting
communication and minimal con-
flict. Although many young people
do want to know the reasons why
their parents are breaking up, child
psychologist Laverne Antrobus who
works at London s Tavistock Clinic
says we have to be very careful about
how open we are with them about
the reasons behind a separation.
"We are talking about adult rela-
tionships, and depending on the age
of your child, they are still learning
about their own identity and par-
ticularly their own identity in relation
to you as a parent," says Antrobus.
"So if you say something that
sounds fairly innocent, for example,
He or she doesn t make me happy
any more, that might seem very
straightforward and obvious to you,
but for a child they might start
thinking, Well what happens when
I don t make you happy, will you
leave me? So I think the words that
we use are terribly important."
Antrobus says it is always better
to talk about how things have devel-
oped between you.
"So as a couple you have decided
you can t live together any more,
but that as a parental couple it s
really about... ensuring that children
know that you will still have a con-
nection to your care, love and com-
mitment to them and I think that s
so terribly containing."
She says it is important for a cou-
ple to explain to their children that
while a part of the parents relation-
ship has come to an end, something
else can continue to grow.
"Children are much more resilient
than we think," says Antrobus, "but
what needs to come quite quickly
is that, We are your parents and
that bond isn t going to break. "
She says that although divorce
and separation is an interruption in
a child s life, the interruption will
be more long-term if there is a lack
of clarity about the separation - if,
for instance, the couple still continue
to live together. But it is also impor-
tant not to blur the lines between
parent and child.
"Psychologists have just been
given a new directive which is that
the age range that we work with
used to be 0-18, now it s 0-25," says
Antrobus. "That is also an indication
that we know much more about
development and that children and
young people are taking much more
time to develop hormonally.
The breakdown of a relationship
does not have to mean the break-
down of a couple s parental rela-
tionship with their children. (BBC)
Should you tell your child why you are splitting up?
There are many families out
there who manage to
navigate this quite well once
they've got over that initial
distressing period. Laverne
Antrobus, child psychologist
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, who recently announced their
break-up, have two children. AP PHOTO
Links Archive September 8th 2013 September 10th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page