Couples struggle to communicate effectively when their relationship is under strain. This is likely to be most difficult when parents decide to separate, even when this is a mutual decision.
Couples seldom seek counselling to help them manage this difficult transition. What is the point of counselling when you are ending the relationship?
Communicating effectively about issues such as how and when to tell the children, informing other family members, who leaves the family home and when, and negotiating spending time with the children can be extremely painful.
Parents often need help to manage the discussions that inevitably have to take place about the management of their children’s busy lives; children will feel loyal to both parents and can feel that they are in the middle of a tug-of-war.
Several sessions with an experienced counsellor might enable you to discuss in a safe, neutral space the needs of your children, how they are coping, how to recognise your children’s anxieties and how you might help them cope better. Children frequently feel responsible for the breakdown of their parents’ relationship, and that, by being good, they might be able to mend things. Of course, it is very difficult to focus on children of any age when you are having to manage your own feelings, but your children will be very fearful of the changes that are happening, however well you protect them. Whether they are 2 or 17, children will need their feelings about the family breakdown to be understood by their parents.
Many other issues need to be considered early on in the separation process - managing interim financial arrangements, contact with friends and, if there is a third party involved, whether and how contact with the children should happen if one partner decides to cohabit.
The separation sessions Judith offers are different from counselling, and include advice and giving information about talking to your children, identifying and managing their anxieties and ensuring that you as parents are able to continue to communicate effectively. The quality of the residual relationship after divorce is a big factor in reducing the trauma experienced by your children. You may also be signposted to other sources of help.