Newcastle and Hexham’s Best Children’s Lawyer, Lucinda Connell reports a new report by Netmums suggests that separating parents are in denial about the impact their divorce may have on their children. The parenting organisation surveyed 1,000 parents and 100 children separately.
The report shows:
• Only 14% of children were able to be honest with their parents about how upset they felt.
• 39% said they ‘hide their feelings from their parents as they don’t want to upset them’ while one in five felt ‘there was no point in telling my parents how I feel as they are too wrapped up in themselves’.
• One in 12 felt forced to look after the parent as the relationship broke down while more than a third (35%) claimed one of their warring parents tried to turn them against the other.
• Almost a third of under 18s described themselves as ‘devastated’ by their parents divorce while one in 12 thought it meant their parents ‘didn’t love them’ and had ‘let them down’. 13% blamed themselves for the split.
• The trauma of the spilt was so bad for some youngsters that 31% witnessed their parents fighting while one in 20 drank, and 3% took drugs to cope. Shockingly, one in nine self-harmed (11%).
• A further six per cent considered suicide and one in 50 tried it but was found in time.
Rather worryingly, the parents’ perspective is somewhat different:
• Only 5% of parents realised their children blamed themselves for the split, and one in ten thought their children were ‘relieved’ they left their partner.
• 10%of parents realised their child had seen them fighting – three times lower than the true figure.
• 8%admitted they had tried to turn their child against the other parent, almost four times lower than reported by the children.
• 77% of separated couples think their children coped well – but only 18% of children are happy their parents are no longer together.
• Whilst over a third of children claim one of their parents tried to turn them against the other, only 8% of parents admit to it.
• Whilst one in five children drank and one in nine self-harmed to cope, just one in 100 parents knew.
The study also showed the most common way that children learned that their parents were breaking up was for the mother to tell them face to face (28%) followed by both parents telling them together (24%). However, 13% overheard it during a row and 1% were told by text.
The survey reveals how important it is for separating partners to adopt a consistent and collaborative approach to their children and to ensure that whatever the differences may be between the parents, both must strive to prioritise the needs of the children.