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Guidelines for parents

Guidelines for parents


  • Give yourself, your children and your former partner time to readjust.
  • Try to strike a reasonable balance between time for yourself and time for your children.
  • Don’t feel you must overcompensate for the loss your children have suffered by giving them expensive holidays, outings, presents, etc. The best thing you can give your children at this stage is your time and yourself. Over-compensating with presents and outings is usually the result of you feeling guilty and will not help your children.
  • Although it may be difficult from a practical point of view, it is better not to upset your children’s routine too abruptly.
  • Children need stability and having to cope with too many changes at once can be very disturbing for them. Sometimes an abrupt change of environment like moving house or school cannot be avoided and, in these circumstances, it is very important that you allow extra time for yourself and the children to be together.
  • Relationship breakdown is always hard on children (as well as parents). But this should not stop you from telling them what is happening and why, in a way they can easily understand. However, limit the amount of detail that you tell your children. This will vary with the circumstances and with each child’s age and understanding. Be careful you don’t tell them things in order to convince them of your point of view. The point of discussing things is to reassure them and keep them informed about what is happening so that they don’t worry unnecessarily.
  • Remember the better parts of the relationship with your former partner and try to share them with your children.
  • If your children are visibly distressed you can help them by assuring them that it’s okay to cry. Sometimes they will want to talk as guidelines for parents well as cry; at other times they may simply want to cry.
  • Your children may also express a lot of anger. Anger is often an expression of hurt and one way of helping is to encourage them to talk about their feelings of hurt, loss and insecurity.
  • Regularly tell your children that they are not to blame for the breakup and that they are not being rejected or abandoned. It is important to understand that children, especially younger ones, often mistakenly feel that something that they have done has caused the breakup. Small children live in a world which is part real and part fantasy, and they can easily believe that some secret wish of theirs may have caused one of their parents to leave.
  • Most people going through a separation or divorce find they need a ‘lifeline’ or ‘guidelines’ during the difficult times. If so, make contact with a relationship counselling or mediation organisation, a self-help group or a friend whose opinion you trust. The Family Court can help you make contact with such services and guidelines. You can also find services for single parents and families listed on the ‘Community Help and Welfare Services’ page at the front of your phone book; also under ‘Marriage’ in the White Pages and under ‘Counselling – Marriage, Family and Personal’ in the Yellow Pages.
  • Continuing bitterness and anger between separated parents is likely to damage children much more than the separation itself. To prevent this happening, it may again be helpful to talk about your feelings with someone you trust (preferably outside the family) or with a professional from one of the services mentioned.
  • Of course, you may feel angry with your former partner and these feelings may last some time. But remember, it is important for the development of children that they can respect both parents. Discourage your children from taking sides. A child should not be placed in the position of deciding which parent is the ‘goodie’ and which the ‘baddie’.
  • Separation or divorce often places financial pressure on both parents. It is important that you discourage your children from blaming the other parent for your financial circumstances.
  • After your separation, it is important that you continue to be consistent in your discipline of the children. Children need to know clearly what is expected of them – they feel more secure when reasonable limits are set. Don’t confuse allowing the children to express their feelings with allowing them to do whatever they like.


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