The impact of separation on the family

When a couple decide to separate, it is often a process which gives rise to a mixed range of emotions

Sometimes there is hurt and anger at each other or towards a third party. In some cases there is frustration and annoyance at not realizing that the relationship had broken down to this extent. On some occasions there is relief felt by both parties.

If children are involved this in itself raises various emotions for them which the parents have to work hard to manage. This area is itself a separate blog and I will not address it here.

Parents will eventually manage to arrange the time the children will spend with each parent either through mutual agreement or by the Order of a Court. This will ensure that the children spend time with both parents.

So what about the other family members that suffer as a result of the breakdown of the relationship?

Often there are paternal and maternal sides of the family that are sidelined and their relationship with the children is affected. In some cases this time the children spend with their extended families when their own family unit breaks down becomes limited in time or simply no longer is available to the children. This may not be purposeful but a natural occurrence of the breakdown of the adult relationship.

Children are therefore faced with spending time with one set of the family and developing relationships which become limited in nature. It is important that both sets of parents realise that the children have the right to know both sides of the family equally and that efforts should be made to this effect by both parents. Obviously time is limited and children have their own social lives if they are older and educational and activity commitments to contend with.

Generations ago families would get together and this occasion was often something everyone looked forward to. Those days playing with cousins and the early relationships that children build are often with the younger children of relatives. We lose sight of these relationships very quickly and they begin to change when children start school and break away from family exposure.

Sometimes such relationships are affected by matters beyond the children’s control, such as the breakdown of the parents relationships.

Children should be encouraged to maintain contact with cousins and family members when their parents relationships end. If nothing else, it ensures that the children do not have to end indirectly the relationships that they may have come to value over the years. In some cases is is accepted that additional contact with certain family members may not be appropriate. For example, where the families are at war and negative comments may be made by relatives to the child exposing them to adult issues. However, where a sensible balance is arranged and parents are firm with relatives about keeping the breakdown an adult issue, this can help children build relationships successfully with both sides of the family.

Grandparents are also an important factor in the lives of the children. They can teach children values and share experiences that busy parents may not have the time to share with the children. There are ways that the grandparents can help and assist the child in school work, reading, activities and every day interactions with them.

Time is important to us all and where relations are such that interactions with family members can take place, it is beneficial that the children are able to develop their relationships with the maternal and paternal families. It is easy to have tunnel vision when a relationship ends but everyone should remember that it is not only the parents that are affected. The breakdown causes ripples and a loss of relationships to the children and to others in the family. Remember, that the children have a family outside of simply the parents and siblings. Allowing the children to have a secure basis of understanding and time with their extended family allows them to understand and develop their own family dynamics.

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