As January turns to February, initial decisions about separation taken at the beginning of the year are starting to sink in, and their effects are being felt throughout the family.
The impact of family separation and breakdown on the children involved is profound. Both parents have a responsibility to try to alleviate this, and support children through the changes that they will inevitably experience.
Resolution's publication Separation and Divorce: Helping Parents to Help Children
, written by Christina McGhee, is a useful starting point for parents trying to help their children to come to terms with what has happened and what this will mean for the future. It contains a useful section dedicated to setting out how children of different age groups, from infants to teenagers, experience divorce and separation and how this might be expressed, as well as tips for how to talk to children about divorce and how parents can manage their relationship after separation. It also features a useful digest of a large range of resources available to children, parents and families.
As well as divorcing parents equipping themselves with useful resources like Christina McGhee's book, it is also a good idea to stock up on a number of books that can be shared with children which can help them to understand how separation and divorce might affect them and, in turn, helping them to process how they feel about it.
An essential book for primary school aged children is one not explicitly about divorce, but about feelings. The Great Big Book of Feelings
by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith is a great prompt to help children express how they might be feeling about the changes taking place in their lives, and open up discussions on these difficult subjects. With colourful illustrations the book explores every emotion in individual double-page spreads, explaining what each feeling means and giving examples of times that the feeling might arise as well as suggesting things that a child might want to do to make themselves feel better. The book spans a range of ages, and could be read with a smaller child or independently by an older one.
For parents looking for a straightforward way to help their children understand what a divorce means, Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families
by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown is a good place to start. It is part of a wider series, Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families
, and its comic-strip style explains why a divorce might come about, what it means, and what its consequences might be. Although first published in 1986, it remains at the top of recommended reading lists for children affected by divorce with good reason. It is clear and straightforward, and should help to make any child feel that there is nothing at all unusual about the changes going on around them.