Lasting Impact  (Blog)

Our North West based consultant family lawyer, Moji Sobowale, provides us with 6 top tips to minimise the effects of marital breakdown on our children.

Tributes were recently paid to the late Princess Diana on the 20th anniversary of her passing. I vividly remember the day that this tragedy shocked the nation. I had just turned eight-years-old and my mother was weeping uncontrollably. That was one of the very few times I have seen tears, in those proportions, pour out of my mother’s eyes.

The truth is that Diana and I shared something in common, we found watching our mothers cry earth shattering:

“I remember Mummy crying an awful lot and every Saturday when we went up for weekends, every Saturday night, standard procedure, she would start crying. On Saturday we would both see her crying. “What’s the matter, Mummy?” “Oh, I don’t want you to leave tomorrow,” which for a nine-year-old was devastating, you know.” Diana, Her True Story

We now know that Diana’s childhood was plastered with unhappy memories of her parents arguing. Those memories have a lasting impact on children.

So how should warring spouses behave as parents both pre and post-separation? 6 top tips:

  1. never bad mouth the spouse/ex-spouse in front of the children, they are perceptive. Embroiling children in a bitter war of attrition is likely to be detrimental to their psychological development;
  2. never make children take sides whether advertently or inadvertently, statistics show that children often say one thing to one parent and make a wholly contradictory statement to the other;
  3. once separated, establish a workable pattern of care for the children remembering what is in their best interests not what suits you;
  4. as tempting as it may be with very close relationships between parent and child, avoid using the children as shoulders to cry on. Children already feel the impact of a divorce. The role reversal of acting as a counsellor to their protectors is likely to cause children long-term emotional damage.
  5. when the children are spending time with you shower them with your time, love and affection, not meaningless gifts. Diana recalls each of her parents, “trying to make it up in their area with material things rather than the actual tactile stuff, which is what we both craved but never got …”
  6. Now, at first glance contrary to point 4, treat your children like adults in the sense that they will know something is going on. If possible, work out a joint non-inflammatory way to break the news to them gently.

It is always better to agree but we appreciate that sometimes the circumstances can make this difficult. When at cross-purposes over their children’s upbringing and welfare, parents must handle things delicately, not least for the sake of the children.

What I’m sure is pleasing to all, whether you are a royalist or not, is the fact that Prince William appears to be taking to his roles as husband and father in an exemplary fashion.

As a family law solicitor, Moji is able to advise on the law behind and intricacies involved in making child arrangements.