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Issues in Marital Separation

Here are three common issues adults and children may face during marital separation.

  1. Emotional upheaval

    Partners are often overwhelmed emotionally – worry, anger, depression, distracted, loss of perspective, feel a failure as a parent, loss of time from work, facing expensive legal processes, high levels of conflict.

    Children may be emotionally overwhelmed – 25% of children from separated families suffer from poor mental health.

  2. High Levels of Stress and Conflict

    Ex-partners in high conflict tend to remain very angry and distrustful; they may threaten, intimidate, and try to control each other. They may also avoid each other unnecessarily, and may be aggressive and abusive to one another and criticise each other’s parenting methods.

    Children tend to cope with conflict between the parents when:

    1. The conflict is not violent
    2. The conflict is not frequent
    3. Parents are working at sorting it out
    4. Children are not caught in the middle
    5. Children understand they are not to blame

    Children who experience parental conflict may:

    1. Lose ability to trust
    2. Make poor attachments to parents
    3. Get overwhelmed by their feelings
    4. Lose self-confidence
    5. Show their distress through “acting out” behaviours
    6. Have trouble making and keeping friends
    7. Have trouble making healthy adult relationships
    8. Find School work more difficult


  3. A Change in Parenting Style after Separation

    Parents often struggle to build a secure parenting base after separation. They need support to sort out the conflicts and provide protection for the children from the adult tensions.

    Three typical styles emerge:
  • Cooperative parenting
  • Two track parenting
  • Conflicted parenting

          Here are some tips to manage conflict during separation: 

  • Work through the emotions after separation
  • Keep conflicts away from children
  • Avoid becoming stuck in disbelief, denial, rage, rejection and grief
  • Find a safe outlet for their emotions
  • Separate being a parent from being an ex-partner
  • Focus equally on their own needs as well as the children’s needs
  • Move beyond resentment and revenge
  • Look for solutions
  • Get good advice from friends, relatives and professionals
  • Don’t use abuse and violence
  • Listen carefully to how the children feel about things
  • Let the children know they are trying to sort out their differences
  • Explain to children that it’s not their fault
  • Are positive about the other parent
  • Don’t let the children play messenger between the parents
  • Try to stay out of court and avoid litigation.

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