Myth: Children are irreparably damaged by family breakdown.
Children are neither totally fragile nor absolutely resilient. You and your ex-partner can help your children feel more secure by not criticising each other or fighting in front of them.
Separation can be stressful for your children, and can affect them emotionally in different ways. Children may think that the separation is their fault or feel betrayed. Whatever they are feeling, they may struggle to discuss their emotions with you, and may express them through their behaviour. Community services can help you and your children adjust to separation and divorce.
What you can do to help:
- If you are experiencing family violence, contact your family violence worker or safe steps about how to talk to your children.
- Make it clear that the separation is not their fault, and it is between both you and your partner.
- Ensure your children know you both still love them and that this will always be the case. Make it clear that it is good for your children to have ongoing relationships with both of their parents.
- Keeping in mind your children’s age and level of development, talk openly with your children. Answer their questions honestly and, where appropriate, involve them in decisions that affect them.
- Encourage your children to talk to friends who have also gone through a separation.
- Try and limit the changes to your children’s environment and daily routines.
- Maintain relationships with relatives and friends from both sides of the family.
- Try and establish a good working relationship with the other parent. While disagreements may be unavoidable at this time, do not involve your children in disagreements or use them as a ‘messenger’ or ‘spy’ between you and your ex-partner. You might consider seeing a counsellor to help you better manage your ongoing relationship with your ex-partner. However, this may not be helpful if you are experiencing family violence.
You can read more in the Family Law Court’s online guide for parents on ‘Children and Separation’. For age-appropriate resources and publications for your children, visit the Family Relationships website.
Who should my children live with?
If you have children, you will have to work out with whom your children will stay with while you sort things out – with you, your partner or someone else. Practical considerations such as where you plan to live, your children’s schooling, your work and your financial situation, can help you decide on the best option for you and your children. Some separated couples take turns to live with their children in their family home, based on share care arrangement. It is also important that you get legal advice about where your children should live and what arrangements can be made.
Myth: Women who don’t live with their children after they end a relationship are bad mothers.
Families are not all the same, and although most mothers remain the primary carers of their children, this might not be the best way to go for all families.