‘Don’t stay together for our sake’

27 November 2015

Eight out of 10 children and young people with experience of parental separation or divorce would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy, rather than stay together.

So says a poll of young people aged 14-22 with experience of parental separation, carried out on behalf of family law organisation Resolution.

It reveals fresh insights from children about the levels of involvement and amount of information they would like during their parents’ divorce. The findings are released ahead of a Parliamentary launch of new advice for divorcing parents.

An overwhelming majority (82%) of young people surveyed said that, despite their feelings at the time, they felt it was ultimately better that their parents divorced rather than stay together unhappily. Asked what advice they would give divorcing parents, one young person said: ‘Don’t stay together for a child’s sake; better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms.’ Another suggests: children ‘will certainly be very upset at the time but will often realise, later on, that it was for the best’.

Key findings show that children and young people want greater involvement in decision-making during the divorce process:…

  • 62% of children and young people polled disagreed with the statement that their parents made sure they were part of the decision-making process about their separation or divorce.
  • Half of young people (50%) indicate that they did not have any say as to which parent they would live with, or where they would live (49%), following their parents’ separation or divorce. Importantly, 88% say it is important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between their parents.
  • Around half (47%) say that they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce.
  • Two in 10 (19%) agree that they sometimes felt like the separation or divorce was their fault.
  • When asked what they’d most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31% of young people said they would have liked  their parents not to be horrible about each other to them, and 30% said they would have liked their parents to understand what it felt like to be in the middle of the process.
  • Positively, Resolution’s research also showed that many parents are handling their separation admirably. 50% of young people agreed that their parents put their needs first during their separation or divorce.

One of Relate’s counsellors says: “Parental conflict has the most damaging effect on children and we see this played out in the counselling room every day.

“Of course, children usually find their parents’ separation extremely upsetting but, as this research demonstrates, eventually many come to terms with the situation and adjust to changes in family life.

“There are plenty of steps that separating parents can take to ensure they reduce the negative impact on their children such as working to avoid constant arguing, or speaking badly of the other parent in front of the kids.

“Parents can also involve their children by providing age-appropriate and relevant information about the divorce or separation and what it means for them. Trying to understand children’s needs will make them feel secure and loved during this difficult time.”

Separating parents can get support such as individual counselling, couples counselling and family counselling from Relate. Call us on 01234 356350.


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